SR greets France’s New Anticapitalist Party

The strike movement against pension reforms that swept France last year was an inspiration to socialists and trade-union activists in Britain. Although the movement was unable to stop the vote in Parliamentary, the fact that there was a struggle on such a scale means that the spirit and the structures for fighting back will remain for the next attacks that Sarkozy and the bosses will launch. Socialist Resistance congratulates the NPA for the role it played in the tremendous strike movement last year. In particular, we believe that it was important that after six separate days of national strike and millions on demonstrations, the idea of a generalised and ongoing strike be popularised in order to show that escalating the movement was the only way to defeat the government.

We are living through the deepest economic crisis since the 1930s and many governments in Europe are the most neoliberal in a generation. We face together across Europe the need to organise resistance on a mass scale to defend all the gains of the working class, in particular the welfare state and public services. These neoliberal governments across Europe are determined to make the working class pay for the crisis, even though it is entirely the responsibility of the bankers and the capitalists. They are determined to massively drive down the living conditions of the working class and we should therefore be as determined as they are to resist. This will need a broad, mass and democratic movement of all the working class and progressive organisations uniting around the simple task of defending the welfare state and all of our public services.

But we also need a political response in countries across Europe. A mass movement is necessary but not sufficient. The formation of new parties to the left of the Socialist Parties who have now entirely embraced neoliberalism is a task for all revolutionary socialists. These parties should be as radical as possible in each country, be based on the class struggle and fight for a programme defending the interests of the working class. These parties will need to be independent of all those who claim to be on the left but actually implement neoliberal policies and they will therefore have to be as loyal to the working class as the bosses and bankers are loyal to their class.

Socialist Resistance will be mobilising in Britain for the trade-unions, the left and the anti-cuts movement to join the mobilisations against the G8 and G20 summits in France. Socialist Resistance also invites you to attend the conference being organised by the Coalition of Resistance in London on the 1st October to bring together all those who want to plan for a Europe-wide movement and for co-ordinated actions against austerity.

Socialist Resistance wishes you a successful conference and has confidence in the NPA continuing to play a important leading role in the resistance against austerity.

Fred Leplat
for Socialist Resistance

Photo Licenses AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by chagaz and zo²

  1. The present situation, as voted for at the Congress creates effectively two types of members of the NPA, one who automatically has the right to be a candidate if chosen by their local party organisation and those who’s candidacy has to be approved by the national council.

    Basically if you are a revolutionary woman from Maghrebian descent who chooses to wear a headscarf the Congress has decided you are a second class comrade.

    If a company decided that any woman of arabic descent who put forward for promotion above a certain level has to be approved by the board, but any man promoted didn’t we would call it blatant sexism and racist. But here in France we call it revolutionary politics.

  2. So, in addition to a policy that makes electoral agreement with other forces conditional on them agreeing with their increasingly sectarian line the NPA institutionalises sexism and racism.
    I wonder what would SR say if the Communist Party in Britain decided that the leader of the Indian communists domiciled here – who work in close unity with us both electorally and in the unions – was told he could not be a candidate if he continued to wear his turban.

  3. The debate on the veil was extremely tense and complex.
    But the comrades who worked very hard against islamophobia , consider that they made important advances . The vote on candidates for elections does not install a difference between comrades members of the NPA. The motion demanding a 2/3 majority in the national leadership for a candidacy wearing a ‘religious symbol’ (in practice any sort of veil) was clearly defeated.
    The global battle continues a&nd further discussions will be organized in the NPA.

  4. Nick, as Marijke has explained, Pete has mis-reported and, in fact totally reversed, the outcome of the vote at the NPA congress. The congress clearly defeated the proposal.

    The irony of this is, of course, that Pete is a supporter of the PCF. When ‘Le Figaro’ led the campaign against the NPA for standing a socialist-feminist candidate who wears the hijab, the PCF tended more to join in the attack than to defend the NPA – despite the fact that the PCF also has also had a few local candidates who wear the hijab.

  5. Hold on there fellas, what was defeated was the proposal that a 2/3rd majority was necessary at a national council to approve a female comrade who chooses to wear a headscarf. The potential candidate now ‘only’ needs a majority. A comrade who does not wear a headscarf does not need his/her candidature approved at a national level.

    Carlos, yes we have the same issues in the PCF, and with a much larger Magrhebian membership than the NPA. About 40% of my department’s(11) 900 membership is of Magrhebian descent and they tend to be the most hard line secularists on the issue, around a further 15% are from a pied noir descent, and hold similar hard line positions. But we haven’t built in a system of discrimination, which is objectively what the NPA have just done. That doesn’t of course mean that one isn’t there, the system of discrimination in the PCF is more cultural than structural.

  6. Here’s John Mullen’s take on the vote

    I hope John forgives me for this rather potted precise of what he says.

    ‘The NPA Congress voted to reject the motion banning veiled female candidates, by 2 votes.It was decided that the national committee would give the yes or no to such candidates. The motion that a 2/3rd majority would be needed was defeated and a simple majority will suffice.

    A good part of the Party leadership was pissed off that the national congress did not follow the votes of the local party aggregates on this vote. The local aggregates voted 1297 for a total ban, 1044 against and 521 abstentions. The proposal to have a re-called congress on this question was defeated by 142 vs 120, but a reformulated to proposal to have a special congress was passed and the national committee was mandated to organise one ( On a delegate basis I assume).

    It is essentially the old guard secularists who wish to repose the question to a new national congress. I’m not unhappy with this outcome, but I’m not holding my breath that our position will win over half the votes.

    Its not ideal to win by 2 votes, but we now have an opportunity to intensify the debate and win over the comrades to the danger of Islamaphobia.’

    I may have translated parts of John’s analysis wrong, apologies for that, if anyone can improve on it that would be great.

  7. The fact that the national leadership (CPN = National Political Council) has to discuss any candidacy in elections if they pose any problem is in itself a step forward because the previous CPN had not been informed by the daily leadership (Executive committee) about a potential problem concerning the candidacy of Ilham. The fact that it is the responsibility of the CPN to discuss and to decide, is applied in exactly the same way for any candidate, the statutory rules don’t make an exception for a candidate wearing a veil, and this to is a victory against the secularist ‘old’ guard.

  8. Marijke, I agree the defeat of the vote to ban headscarf wearing candidates was indeed a positive achievement.

    However to see such candidates as a ‘problem’ I find, well problematic. As far as I can read into the NPA’s statutes no other type of candidate is automatically refereed to the CPN for approval, which is what congress has approved. That this maybe an internal issue of communication between the EC and the CPN is one thing, which should be maybe dealt with separately but to bundle it in with this motion runs the risk of being seen as discriminatory.

    The NPA is not alone in this, recent statements from the PdG have hardly been encouraging, and the PCF doesn’t have a great history on this one either.

  9. Carlos, no it wasn’t.
    The motion to ban women who chose to wear the veil from being candidates was defeated by 2 votes. I agree.

    However Candidates who wear a veil to be approved by the CPN was approved, that those candidates have to have a 2/3rd majority of the CPN was defeated so now it is a simple majority of the CPN- BUT they still have to be approved.

    If I, and many other French commentators, have got this wrong please point me to an authoritative source that shows veiled women candidates do not have to be approved by the CPN. I would like to be shown to have got this all terribly wrong!

  10. The translation given of what I wrote is basically correct, though what is proposed is a national delegate meeting rather than a recalled conference.
    The organization launched by Ilham is only intended to be local, as I understand it.

    I may have contributed to some of the earlier confusion, in that on Sunday morning I had a comrade who was at the conference on the phone. But the comrade had misunderstood who had won some of the votes!

    So at the end of the day the conference decided two rather contradictory things : 1) the national committee can approve, with a simple majority, the candidacy of women-wearing-headscarves and 2) the final decision will be made after a new national delegate meeting to be held soon.

    It should be said that emotions were running extremely high. Some of the “anti-veil” comrades take this issue as a question of capitulating to patriarchal values or not. So we had real-life shouting and screaming in the hall. In France this issue is the Dreyfus affair of the twenty first century.

    The actual debate has a laughable side, in that it’s very hard to imagine any women with a headscarf having the courage and determination to want to stand as an NPA candidate, however anticapitalist she was, in particular seeing that the NPa does fuck all to actively oppose islamophobia. So in fact the debate is more about principles – between those who think that refusing veils is essential to defending women’s rights, and those like me who think that accepting veils will be the beginning of a move towards eventually actively opposing islamophobia.
    I am writing an article on this in English over the next day or two, and will post the link.
    John Mullen NPA Montreuil

  11. Pete, the video of the debate is online. You can watch it. There was no resolution to say that candidates who wear the hijab automatically must be approved by the leadership, so there was no vote on it and therefore it was not adopted.

    The John Mullins is referring to, and in a very misleading way, is that the NPA has a disputes procedure which allows any candidate whose nomination is disputed to be referred to the leadership. No kind of candidate is *automatically* referred to but indeed it is possible to referr any candidate – not only those who wear the hijab – to the leadership.

  12. Carlos, let’s wait and see shall we. The conclusions of the debate are actually pretty clear, every proposed candidate who wears a hijab will be refereed to the CPN.

    But in reality it will probably not happen as the NPA has proved that it is not a party that welcomes women who chose to wear the hijab, so I very much doubt that any will chose to go through such an inquisition.

    I think this is a shame, and while I don’t want to see it happen I think the NPA is backing itself into a corner both by this debate and the decisions that it took re the orientation of the Party to other forces on the Left.

    At a time when the PCF is in disarray with no clear idea how to gear up to the 21st century, there exists a real opportunity for an militant Left. At it’s foundation the NPA looked to be that which is why myself and a number of other communists, and red greens I know were very interested in it.

    The last year the NPA has squandered so much of it’s political capital, despite the key role many of its militants have played in the union movement. Don’t just take my word for it, ask the third of the membership that as left, and continues to leave.

  13. The media has made a lot of “a third of the members have left”. It’s not a useful description. The founding of the NPA was accompanied by the bringing in of a very wide variety of people, and any sensible observer knew many of them would not last the course (anarchistic and spontaneist ideas were common). There has been a real loss of members, but half of it was absolutely inevitable in this sort of party.

    What is more worrying is it seems that the big movement for pensions didn’t bring in many new members, and indeed it seems to be the case in most left organizations.

    The NPA today is indisputably bigger, younger and more working class than was the LCR say five years ago, but it is relatively paralyzed too.

  14. Pete: no-one can deny that the NPA has deep problems, which are reflected in many ways. However, this debate in the NPA has nothing to do with the strategic debates in the NPA. It’s about the Islamophobia which cuts through French society and hampers the left from playing a broader role. There are real debates – left versus right, up versus down, whatever – in the NPA and the question of the “veil” (as some comrades insist in calling the hijab headscarf which is clearly not a veil) cuts across all of them.

    To me, it’s a positive sign that the debate at the congress was able to shift comrades, and that the congress rejected a proposal which might have been otherwise adopted. The NPA has to accept that it will lose members who were opposed to standing candidates who wear the veil. I think it goes without saying that, more than anywhere else, they will end up joining you and other PCF comrades inside the Left Front. So while the PCF also struggles, it generally stands more firmly, and more proudly, on the terrain of French Republican values than does the NPA.

    The NPA is weaker that it was. No-one one can claim that its weaker than the LCR was. The NPA has gathered together new forces at the base and is going through the challenging experience of sharp political debates in a brand new organisation without a cohesive leadership. Simply the fact that the party has survived this long is an accomplishment.

  15. It strikes me that little is actually said about the politics involved here. Instead of tackling the question of how a Marxist party relates to religion and working class activists who are religious, comrades prefer to wallow around in NPA bashing or cheering.

    If the NPA is to establish itself as an anti-capitalist ie Marxist party then it will have a materialist and non-religious outlook, and a party programme to match. Its class conscious cadres will, of course, be atheists. The Bolsheviks had a long experience of struggle with religious prejudices in Russia, indeed Lenin said one central task of the RSDLP was to “fight against all religious deception of the workers. For us, the ideological struggle is not a private matter, but one that concerns the whole party, and the whole proletariat.” (Socialism and Religion 1905)

    Marxists have fought not only ideologically against religion but to cut off the material support for religion from the state, which is why in their programme they demand the separation of church and state, the ending of all religious schools, the banning of religious indoctrination within them etc. But at the same time we fight all forms of state repression of religion – restrictions on building of places of worship, preventing people wearing religious symbols at school, work or in public, obstructing dietary or prayer requirements in everyday life.

    Marxists are champions of the oppressed. We fight alongside oppressed Muslims and against islamophobia, discrimination and exploitation at work. We fight every attempt to divide workers along religious or cultural grounds. And in those struggles, the fight against religion – for atheism – is secondary. We don’t make our main task in such united fronts the attack on religion, the hijab as a symbol of the oppression of women etc, but neither do we hide or disguise our policies on them either.

    The question is why would a committed or practicing Muslim, Christian or Jew wish to become a parliamentary representative for an openly anti-religious and atheistic Marxist party? Where they would be under the strictest caucus discipline to argue against such things as religious schools and religious public holidays and proclaim in parliament on such matters that religion is “the opium of the people”.

    It seems an unlikely event unless the NPA at national or local level has been unclear on the nature of a Marxist party and its programme; the political discipline expected of elected representatives of the party. It would absolutely normal that the national party leadership should take the decision on such religiously committed candidates proposed locally. They must make sure they know what is expected of them (and it should apply to candidates of any religious persuasion, Freemasons, creationists, flat-earthers etc). The alternative is that you get the George Galloway syndrome.

    Sorry the post is so long but it’s a complex question one worth discussing over, not shouting and polemical fist fights.

    Stuart King, Permanent Revolution

    • So Stuart, does your concept of a pur et dur Marxist Party actually allow people of religious beliefs to join? Or do you run an atheists only policy? If people with religious beliefs are good enough to be be a Party member why can’t they be good enough to stand for election, or do you have two tiers of cadre, goods ones and bad ones?
      Secondly why would you stand against discrimination against Muslims when practice by a company then practice exactly the same discrimination in your own political party by deciding based on appearance or personnel religious beliefs who is entitled to what jobs?
      I realise this is all rather theoretical as Permanent Revolution doesn’t have many members and your successes in elections are even fewer than your membership but I’m still interested to see the prejudices we have here in France on the Left is reflected in the UK.
      As an aside the PCF use to have a cell in the Catholic Priesthood, a number of worker-priests were sent into factories to evangelise the working class, a significant number ended up joining the PCF they were great trade unionists and very active Party members.

  16. We would follow the established position of Marxist parties that workers who still had religious beliefs are perfectly welcome. That is because Marxists see that religion is deeply embedded in sections of the masses because of social oppression of the workers. As long as they know they are joining a party with a clear materialist outlook, one that campaigns against the “opium” of religion, the mismatch between their ideas and the party programme is “their contradiction” as Lenin was fond of saying.

    If the debate in the NPA is just around “appearance” or “dress codes” then it is wrong headed – many women Muslims do not wear a headscarf (Egypt), many worker priests do not wear a “dog collar”. The debate should be around, what are the candidates ideas about religion and do they clash with the party platform? If worker priest or muslim candidate is willing to publicly argue for the party’s positions on religion, in full, while saying that personally it was not something he/she shared, that should not bar them if they are a good revolutionary socialist activist in other spheres.

    None of this is “prejudice” Pete it is how revolutionary Marxists have always approached religion. The reaction to the wooden anti-clericalism of Republican France, and to islamophobia generally, should not be to make serious opportunist concessions to religion and in particular in its its role in the oppression of women, gays etc. That we saw in Respect here – the SWP promoted it and Socialist Resistance did little to challenge it.

    • Stuart, it’s not as much fun as sitting in a darkened room re-living 1917 but can I respectfully suggest that you do some research on the subject under discussion, nameable the NPA Congress and it’s discussions and votes around whether a candidate for the Party can be a muslim woman who wears a headscarf, not whether a party member can be a muslim but whether a muslim woman can wear a headscarf and be a candidate,as one of their candidates did in last years Regionals. The NPA escaped being the second party to ban muslim women from standing, after the FN, by two votes- and there is to be a further conference on this issue. As NPA militant John Mullen points out while the tempers ran high in the Congress hall it has opened up a very interesting debate about how a revolutionary Party relates to Europe’s largest muslim community, which is under serious attack from the Government and the high level of racism institutionalised in all aspects of French life, the FN is on 17% at the moment, a full 5% ahead of the entire Far Left combined.

      Actually the most important thing at the Congress wasn’t series of discussions vote, but the discussion on the future direction of the NPA. But that’s for another day.

    • Stuart, Respect adopted progressive policies on women’s rights, lesbian and gay rights and on the right to abortion because of the campaigning of Socialist Resistance and those who agreed with us. SR won these policies in Respect despite not convincing the SWP on the issue. However, the very fact that it raised those issues and won the debate is, surely, concrete proof that it did not accept the positions of the SWP.

  17. Yes, it looks like Pete Shield needs to do his own research on the NPA!

    Not surprising that a member of the PCF is terrified of “re-living 1917”, nor that he has no interest in how Marxist parties have tackled religious questions in the past. It is the “history is bunk” approach to party building.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Nouveau parti anticapitaliste Congrès: ça cafouille! « Tendance Coatesy
  2. Impasse as NPA divisions intensify « 21stcenturymanifesto

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.