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Why did they go and where?

I can provide a mostly "formal" answer to Binh's question about where those who left the NPA have gone, based on the results of voting at NPA national conventions and subsequent developments. In his piece, Jason Stanley provides an outline of this but understandably doesn't go into too much detail.

At the time of the February 2011 national party gathering, about 27 percent of people voting in the preceding local party meetings (and then of delegates at the national meeting itself) supported the positions of the Convergences & Alternative (C&A) current, which was calling for closer cooperation with the Left Front. Unsatisfied with the outcome of the national gathering, the current formally left the NPA in April 2011. In June 2011, they joined the Left Front in view of supporting its 2012 presidential and legislative campaigns. C&A now exists as a grouping within the Left Front, has a website and so on.

However, it's hard to say if fully 27 percent of C&A supporters from the NPA themselves actually joined the Left Front. Based on anecdotal evidence, my sense is that many did, while a number of others remained around the edges of the NPA and have now "returned" to join the Gauche Anticapitaliste (GA) current in the NPA that formed last November (and which also allows people who are not formally members of the NPA to join). A number of former supporters of the C&A current in the NPA have probably just drifted out of the party-electoral sphere of radical-Left politics.

Two additional points (one "technical", the other more political):

1. Keep in mind that people had already started to leave the NPA before the events described above. This had to do with the disappointing election results of 2009 and 2010, but also with the internal difficulty of integrating such a large influx of people from wildly varying backgrounds into the local and national structures of a new party that was, in a sense, "playing things by ear", trying to find solutions to these challenges as it went along.

2. With this latter point in mind, one of the main difficulties the NPA has had (and any new anti-capitalist project will have in France and everywhere else) is trying to find a workable solution (collective outlook, common activities, etc) for a membership drawn from such different backgrounds. Very generally speaking, you had (have) people with considerable experience with the "traditional" organizations of the Left and social movements; and (often younger) people with experiences in different forms of organizing and struggle or just drawn to the general message of the NPA and public image of Olivier Besancenot (a straight-talking, radical, young postal worker, not a career politician, etc.).

It would be interesting to see what portion of former NPAers now in the Left Front is drawn from the former group rather than the latter. I suspect it is much higher; and indeed that those drawn from the second group will drift away from the Left Front as well once the campaigns of 2012 are over. In other words, this is a "structural" problem within the radical Left that is not going to go away any time soon.

One of the main problems I have with the original Jason Stanley piece is that it gives short shrift to these types of problems, choosing the simpler solution of chalking the NPA's problems up to those of attitude ("hubris") and political orientation ("sectarianism").

I hope my comments provide the beginnings of a more complex understanding of the difficulties facing the NPA (and all of us on the anti-capitalist Left).

Nathan Rao

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