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EU elections in 2009

True, the NPA could have negotiated an agreement for the EU elections in March 2009 on relatively favourable terms, given the context (semi-insurrectionary general strike in Guadeloupe and a recent powerful protest movement in France proper; massive popularity of Olivier Besancenot and tremendous momentum for the newly founded NPA) and that no governmental responsibilities would have flowed from getting members in the EU parliament. The minority Gauche anticapitaliste current ("Anti-Capitalist Left") -- formally founded at a conference last November -- has identified this as a major tactical error.

On the other hand, it's not clear that this tactical choice would have solved all the other problems the NPA had to deal with. Regional elections one year later (March 2010) raised the same issues once again, but in far more complicated ways given the less favourable context and the fact that the contest did indeed involve the Left Front joining or supporting PS-led regional governments. And then of course the big circus leading to this year's presidential and legislative elections began soon after; in an even more deteriorated context (defeat of the movement around pension rights; massive EU-wide austerity offensive) and with even more unsavoury Left Front jockeying for institutional positions within a likely PS-led dispensation.

A different NPA position on the 2009 EU elections may have placed it on a somewhat stronger footing to deal with all this, but I don't think it would have fundamentally altered things. So defining those choices as a kind of "original sin" is wrongheaded.

In any case, everyone in this exchange is giving too much importance to the purely electoral/tactical side of the difficult situation in which the NPA found (and finds) itself). Really, the question is: How in the present context do you sustain a radical-Left organization of thousands of members from different backgrounds, where the capitalist crisis and offensive continue unabated; resistance is scattered and uneven; and prospects for social transformation are weak. Put simply, how to build a revolutionary organization in decidedly non-revolutionary times? (Tiny propaganda groups can solve this problem fairly easily with manifestos, reading groups and the occasional public action, but it's another matter when you actually have visibility and responsibility in the broader society.)

As I said earlier, the strategic gamble behind the NPA was that no such project could be built and sustained without -- on the important matter of holding the reins of capitalist government -- maintaining very strict independence from the thoroughly neoliberalized SP and those whose apparatuses have become utterly dependent upon it. There is no avoiding this question, and those who think they have found the answer in casting the SP in the mould of the "traditional social-democratic parties of the working class" should take a somewhat closer look at what it has become; not to mention a closer look at exactly how government and the state work under capitalism today.

At the same time, it was clear that the far-Left parties of the post-68 period had failed or at least irreversibly run up against their limits and that, in any case, there had been for quite some time a strong need for a kind of generational passing-of-the-batons from the 1968 crowd to those of us who have come after (I'm in my mid-40s, on the slightly older edge of many of those in the core of the former LCR who drove the NPA project forward).

Just to return slightly to the question of electoral politics: In his piece, Jason Stanley makes a very insightful comment about how one could easily conclude from Besancenot's media appearances that the only strategy he had was one of repeated calls for general strikes and "insurrection" (as Stanley says).

While the internal discussions on strategy within the LCR and then the NPA were slightly more complex and involved than this (!), it's true that there is a specific and key difficulty around the matter of electoral politics and "governmental formulae" for radical-Left organizations that have crossed a certain threshold in terms of size and influence but who remain relatively marginal and find themselves in a context of general social retreat and demobilization.

Here, while there is broad agreement about the need for the NPA to be present in electoral contests, and around what I said above about the PS etc, the NPA is definitely torn in its internal debates around what importance should be given to electoral politics; and, perhaps more importantly, where elections and government fit into revolutionary strategy over the longer term.

I have views on this -- closer to the NPA minority (and perhaps also to Jason Stanley) than to the current NPA majority -- but this post is already far too long as it is!

Nathan Rao

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