l’étincelle expelled from lutte ouvrière

The majority faction in Lutte Ouvrière, the second largest Trotskyist group in France, this Sunday expelled its minority L’Étincelle faction, which is sympathetic to the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire and its proposed New Anti-capitalist Party project.

This move by the leadership of an already largely monolithic organisation is no surprise: L’Étincelle had already been “suspended” from LO six months ago over its objections to running joint electoral lists with the Parti Socialiste and Parti Communiste Français, and furthermore the somewhat similar Voix des Travailleurs group was expelled from LO in 1997 after criticising the group’s failure to open out and create a broader party.

Although comparatively large – having membership figures in the low thousands – Lutte Ouvrière is an extremely strict, sectarian and dogmatic tendency, clinging on to the writings of Leon Trotsky and “keeping the flame alive” at the expense of listening to anything written or said since (even by Trotskyists). Its criticism of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire’s new party project (as explained at length in its magazine Lutte de Classe, no. 109)  is not that it is vague about reform versus revolution and that it makes populist gestures towards radical feminism, third-world nationalism and “Guevarism”, but that it is not explicitly Trotskyist, and therefore they cannot participate in it.

Below we reproduce the statements of the L’Étincelle faction and the Lutte Ouvrière majority, which go some way towards displaying the LO leadership’s control-freakery:

L’Étincelle statement

Having previously suspended the L’Étincelle faction, on Sunday 21st September Arlette Laguiller’s party expelled it at a special national conference called for the purpose, just two months before the regular annual congress, in December, which was due to debate the suspension and the political direction of the organisation.

It is clear that the Lutte Ouvrière leadership could not tolerate either criticism of its policy of support for the ‘union of the left’ and the Socialist Party at the last municipal elections, or debate on the outcome of this disastrous policy. Not only did LO fail to come close to getting the number of councillors it hoped for from the small space it received on Socialist Party, Communist Party and joint lists in return for its support for programmes and policies which were not its own. But furthermore, this opportunist policy has in the eyes of a number of LO supporters and other workers damaged the image of clarity and principle which [LO] had rightly won from its previous policies.

The reasons given for the expulsion of the faction are either crude pretexts (reproaching the faction for an alliance it made with the LCR for the municipal elections in Agen at the same time as the LO majority was on joint lists with the LCR in other cities, and even for having refused to have outgoing LO municipal councillors in Wattrelos close to the faction removed because they had not accepted the new electoral alliance with the Socialist Party); or expressions of the introversion and political stubbornness of LO these days (reproaching the faction for having tried to explore, with other tendencies of the far left, the possibility of building a New Anti-capitalist Party, as proposed by Olivier Besancenot).

The expulsion, of course, will not change the activity, politics or basic orientation of the L’Etincelle faction of LO, which fights for the building of a revolutionary communist proletarian party, the implantation of the Trotskyist current in the working class, and the development of a united workers’ movement, which is necessary in order to oppose the redoubled attacks of the bosses and of the government against the working class and the mass of the population.

Lutte Ouvrière leadership statement

Meeting for our national conference on 21st September 2008 in order to examine the relations between the majority of Lutte Ouvrière and the L’Étincelle faction, 97.3% of our activists voted for the following motion:

“It is clear that the L’Étincelle faction has since its creation become more and more distanced from the Lutte Ouvrière majority, to the point where today it represents a completely independent and autonomous organisation which no longer has any political ties to Lutte Ouvrière.

“Throughout this years it has never accepted that its projects should be subject not only to meaningful discussion but also to a vote to decide a common orientation. It has always confused “keeping informed” the decision-making bodies of Lutte Ouvrière with debate and collective decision-making.

“Finally, before the municipal elections, it unilaterally decided to support and participate in LCR lists, and furthermore, in Wattrelos, dissidents who had nothing more to do with Lutte Ouvrière. Its explicit refusal to respect the decision made by the majority has forced [the majority] to suspend [L’Étincelle] until a formal decision could be made about it.

“To this we can add their participation in the construction of the NPA [New Anti-capitlaist Party], placing them not only outside Lutte Ouvrière, but very from it.

“The supposed existence of a faction taking part in Lutte Ouvrière, therefore, has for a long time been a fiction, and it is time to put an end to this state of affairs”

“As a consequence, this vote decides to end all relations between Lutte Ouvrière and the group until now called Fraction Lutte Ouvrière – L’Étincelle.”

7 thoughts on “l’étincelle expelled from lutte ouvrière

  1. L’étincelle asks for a Communist and Trotskyite display to enter in NPA (LCR’s new party project). This group is not “less ” Trotskyite than the majority of LO, but less ideologically delimited than LO on the question of the “working state ” (LO considering that Russia is a working state after the fall of USSR remained!)

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  2. Indeed: because of their refusal to “add” anything to Trotsky’s holy writ, not only do they insist that the USSR was always a workers’ state (and Russia continued to be after 1991 – which Ted Grant’s group similarly claimed until about 1998) but also that the mini-USSRs created in Eastern Europe after WWII were state capitalist, despite the fact that they had economic systems, relations of production and political mechanisms nearly identical to those of the “workers’ state” in the USSR.

    In a perverse way and within its own crazy logic this does make sense – their claim that the USSR was a workers’ state (albeit degenerated) even after the soviets and all vestiges of working-class organisation were smashed is partly based on the idea of the “collective memory” of the revolution rather than anything to do with the economic system… so why should that not continue after 1991? The working class had lost power many decades beforehand anyway…

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  3. There is a grotesque element to LO’s criticism of L’Etincelle as it “it represents a completely independent and autonomous organisation”. No wonder when the supporters of L’Etincelle were seperated from the majority of LO and forced to participate in cells consisting solely of minority members of the organisation. A travesty of the Leninism that LO claims to adhere to.

    Small wonder that Barta disavowed LO.

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  4. I may be wrong but L’Etincelle did not criticize the alliance with the CP but with the SP, which is not exactly the same given the social composition of the SP and its almost non existent links with the working class, as opposed to the decaying CP, which still has some working class militants.

    Another point.

    Basically l’Etincelle, during all these years, has not defined positions which are very different from LO. As most people who are impressed by LO’s claim to have a trotskyist-proletarian line (as I was 34 years ago) they have not been able to define a separate original position on most political questions. The fact that they still cling to trotskyism, leninism, etc., has not enabled them to appear as very different from the majority even if they were less sectarian and more sensitive to new movements.
    We have had the same kind of experience with Combat communiste in 1974, even if we were “state caps” and had some more original positions on the trade unions and socialist propaganda, we were seen by most people as just a microscopic LO. So most good working class militants prefer not to loose time in small tendencies or small groups.
    that’s an unpleasant reality but it has to be faced.
    The fact that the LCR may grow (it remains to be seen if they are effectively growing) is linked to the fact that they want to recruit people who not only are not attracted by trotskyism and marxism and leninism and all that “old” stuff, but also people who are really repelled by all that. Read the discussion forums of the new NPA or the interviews published in the last Critique communiste from young militants (not the Old Guard or those coming from other groups) and you will have a flavour of their ideology: basically the average no global-reformist stuff “let’s share the wealth”, they all say.
    So here is the dilemma: you go on trying to build a leninist trotskyist sect or you build a very large and confused party which will spend a lot of time in electoral politics as Besancenot has already announced and as LO and then the LCR have been doing for many years with very small results, apart from very important state subsidies (each vote gives you 1,5 €)
    A very grey perspective, indeed.

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  5. “I may be wrong but L’Etincelle did not criticize the alliance with the CP but with the SP, which is not exactly the same given the social composition of the SP and its almost non existent links with the working class, as opposed to the decaying CP, which still has some working class militants.”

    That’s true, but of course if you want to work with the CP you’ll struggle to separate them from the SP, since they make so many electoral pacts.

    I can see now that the phrase used in the article – “objections to running joint electoral lists with the Parti Socialiste and Parti Communiste Français” – is ambiguously worded – the point is that L’Étincelle were critical of LO tailing the “union of the left” which comprises of both the CP and SP.

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  6. Just wondering if anyone can point me to a LO article, statement, etc., (in French or English) where they explicitly describe post-1991 Russia as still a workers’ state…?

    Thanks,
    J

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  7. Hi JB, in a cursory look through the LO site it was hard to find anything but e.g. this November 1992 article directly says it is still a workers’ state:

    http://www.lutte-ouvriere.org/documents/archives/la-revue-lutte-de-classe/serie-1986-1993-trilingue/urss-la-nature-de-l-etat-au?lang=fr

    Whereas this gives a rationale explaining what they thought was going on:

    http://www.lutte-ouvriere.org/documents/archives/la-revue-lutte-de-classe/serie-actuelle-1993/textes-de-la-conference-nationale,1123?lang=fr

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