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Hubris and sectarianism?

Thanks for this piece on one of the most interesting and important radical-Left political projects of the past few years. There are too few pieces in English about the NPA and its often complex internal debates.

The author identifies a number of real problems but the comments about the "hubris" and "sectarianism" of the latter-day LCR and then of the NPA itself are unfair and tend to simply repeat the arguments put forward by the Left Front, with which the author clearly identifies very strongly.

And yet for the anti-capitalist Left, the matter of refusing to "cooperate with the Socialist Party in governing" is indeed of decisive importance. The author apparently supports governing alongside the neoliberal SP, as the Left Front now does in various local governments. I personally think such an approach is misguided; more importantly, however, it would be useful for English-language readers to understand that there may be something more than "hubris" and "sectarianism" behind the huge majority of NPAers (including many or most of those who have left the party) being strongly opposed to such cooperation.

In fact, this defiant attitude toward the SP -- which carried our the Thatcherite turn in France and governed the country for long stretches of time including as recently as 1997-2002 -- was essential for sustaining social-movement resistance to neoliberalism in France and opening up the political space for the launching of the NPA, which the author correctly points out emerged out of an extended, democratic and dynamic constituent process (unlike the Left Party and Left Front, created overnight by a handful of breakaway PS heavyweights).

The question of the PCF also fits in here. For the LCR and NPA, it wasn't and isn't really about the age of PCF party members or its declining election results, as the author says. These are merely symptoms of the bigger problem: the PCF increasingly exists solely as an apparatus based on elected officials and others with a presence in state or para-state bodies; who in turn depend massively on alliances with the (increasingly neoliberalized, it bears repeating) SP in order to retain these institutional positions.

It is essential to keep this in mind when looking at what happened following the successful experience of the 2005 campaign against the EU constitution. The author blames the LCR for killing unity by refusing to be a "counterweight" to the PCF. But, in the run-up to the 2007 presidential and legislative elections, there was no shaking the PCF away from its strategic-institutional alliance with the PS. A number of those who had the author's "pox on both your houses" approach to the PCF and the LCR back in 2007 threw their support behind the anti-globalization and ecologist activist José Bové, but he too quickly joined the orbit of the SP and is now part of the Europe Écologie/Les Verts alliance with the SP. Is this really where the anti-capitalist Left should be in the context of the crisis and the austerity agenda being implemented by the SP's sister parties across Europe?

Finally, though centrally important, it's not true that the position on a government alliance with the SP is the only condition preventing the NPA from supporting the Left Front. It also has a lot to do with the Left Front's unilateral and non-negotiable decision to impose the former Mitterrand minister and PS senator Jean-Luc Mélenchon as its presidential candidate. The author has legitimate concerns about the "personalization" of the NPA around Olivier Besancenot, but it's a little odd that he says nothing about the overbearing Mélenchon.

Nathan Rao

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