France: LCR Dissolves Itself to Form NPA

The Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) will soon be no more.  On Thursday, 5 February, its activists will vote for its self-dissolution to create the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA).  Some seven hundred delegates are expected at a four-day conference, 5-8 February, in la Plaine-Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis), to launch the new party of Olivier Besancenot.

The death certificate won’t be issued without squeaks or critiques.  Some veterans of the LCR won’t be ready for it without four hours of discussions to settle their accounts.  And, for true Trotskyites, having to accept a truncated program and a line judged “too vague” — no, that can’t happen.  “We are making a big mistake setting up a ‘party of struggle.’  This spontaneist decision (driven by the social movement) puts us at the mercy of events,” writes Gilles Suze, a long-time member, in a letter to the LCR leaders.  “It feels more like attending a congress to liquidate the party than one to surpass it,” moans Christian Picquet, of the party minority.

Enthusiasm is indeed palpable in the entourage of Mr. Besancenot.  The young spokesman’s popularity rating has not declined (60% have positive opinions about him on the scorecard of Paris Match, 22 January).  Nor has his success in demonstrations: the last big march on 29 January saw him mobbed by the curious as well as his fans.  He remains the “best of the Left” in the eyes of his associates and does not intend to leave this space — too big for the LCR — vacant, when the economic crisis seems to prove him right.

It’s time to think big and broad.  The NPA claims 9,000 founding members, three times more than the “League.”  One won’t hear “comrades” at its meetings — the public has changed.  There are indeed a handful of veterans of Lutte ouvrière, friends of Jean-Marc Rouillan, founder of Direct Action, some members of the Bové committees, anti-growth environmentalists, and alter-globalization activists.  But most are novices in politics.  “Their membership base are those who are just fed up with Sarkozy and see Besancenot as the only real personality of the Left,” says Alain Krivine, one of the LCR founders.

The NPA is a new radical party whose two identifiers are the “break with capitalism” and the “total independence from the Socialist Party.”  Plus a touch of ecology, re-baptized “ecosocialism.”  Gone is the reference to Trotskyism as communism: the party of Olivier Besancenot is no longer affiliated with the Fourth International founded by Leon Trotsky.  Only the LCR militants remain members.  “We made the decision to create the NPA from the bottom up, without another political partner, and we have succeeded.  This is not an LCR Lite,” assures Pierre-François Grond, Mr. Besancenot’s right-hand man.

The change is visible: the membership profile has changed, more rebellious and less “intellectual.”  But the ideological positioning and the essentials of the organizational structure remain those of the LCR.  The line of self-assertion and demarcation vis-à-vis the Socialist Party — “The true Left is us,” Mr. Besancenot continues to proclaim — in fact echoes the beginnings of the Revolutionary Communist League which, with its Red committees, thought it could alone capture “the spirit of May” 1968.

As for the new governing bodies, their nucleus includes a half of the League leaders.  “We will be a minority,” Mr. Grond says in explanation.  “It’s Besancenot’s friends who are in control of the core structure,” Mr. Picquet disputes.

“The LCR is dead.  Long live the NPA!” the militants will chant on Sunday.  Their leaders have several months to demonstrate that they know how to make it live and prosper.

The original article “La LCR se dissout pour donner naissance au NPA” appears in the 5 February 2009 issue of Le Monde.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at]