Re: [OPE-L] The New European Anti-Globalization Movement?

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sat Jun 11 2005 - 08:04:26 EDT

Loren Goldner posted the following analysis of the French 'No'
vote by Yves Coleman, an editor and publisher of the journal
"Ni Patrie ni Frontieres", to another group.  [NB: I am not
endorsing all of the points made below, but am simply bringing
another (leftist) perspective to your attention.]

In solidarity, Jerry



By Yves Coleman (Ni patrie ni frontières)

On the nationalism of the Left bourgeois parties and
the political manoeuvres of the Far Left

Just like during each electoral competition, everyone,
winners or losers, was thankful for the results of the
May 29th referendum. Sure, "yes" supporters are a
little put out that "la France" will be, because of
the no, a few years behind in what they call the
"construction of Europe," but they can get some
consolation: after all, they still have power (UMP,
main rightwing party) or will soon get it back
(Socialist Party). As for the "no" supporters, they
are celebrating because Chirac took a gigantic slap.
Many think he should have resigned and called for new
elections -- that will only and inevitably clear the
way for bitter disillusionment, whatever the results.

But both the "yes" and "no" supporters all explain
that the campaign "awakened a new interest in
politics, "the debate in France was intense among
ordinary people," that there were "passionate
meetings," that "everybody was studying the
Constitution with pen in hand," etc. Like at each
election, but even more visibly so for this one, the
participants in the electoral farce are bathing, in
fact, in Franco-Frenchness and often chauvinistic
self-satisfaction, paternalistic in regard to other
Europeans. And what could be more normal, since it is
very much one of the functions of the electoral system
? That is, making all the individuals of a given State
of all social classes commune in the illusion they all
are equal because they have the same ballot at their
disposal. They make believe that by abandoning their
decision-making power to uncontrollable and
uncontrolled representatives who do not carry out
their commitments or respect their program, those
representatives will act for the general good of the
nation -- exploiters and exploited all blended

But since this election concerned Europe, it is
necessary to extend the analysis, not of the results
of the vote itself and of the Franco-French
politicians' racket--specialists will do that in the
coming months--but of the positions defended by the
"no" supporters on the Left, of their mystifying
triumphalism and incapacity to form an international
and internationalist analysis.

An overall blindness

To anyone interested in political life in France over
the past few years, some things never change.
Bourgeois politicians think that their imperialism is
still as powerful as it was in the 19th century and at
the beginning of the 20th; and as for revolutionaries,
they seem to act as if the opinion of Marx on the
political superiority of the French workers' movement
were still significant a century and a half later, as
if we still lived in the period opened by the
Revolution of 1789 and closed by the Paris Commune,
the period in which the French proletariat might have
been the vanguard of other proletariats through its
determination to confront the State in 1789, 1830,
1848 and 1870.

Curiously, both conservatives and revolutionaries
refuse to see the political consequences of a new
reality: France is a militarily declining and
economically threatened imperialist power that cannot
keep its rank among the capitalist powers without
forming tight trans-national economic and political
alliances. These alliances are vital for the French
bourgeoisie in its European project and this explains
why this bourgeoisie is ready to abandon part of its
"national sovereignty".

Faced with this situation, revolutionaries have been
incapable, during the last fifty years which saw the
progressive construction of European institutions, to
set up regular connections with their comrades in
other countries (Europeans or not), to construct a
theory and facilitate action on all the issues:
retirement pensions, wages, immigration, police
repression, justice, health and education, etc. And
when two of the three main trotskyist organisations,
Lutte ouvrière (Workers Struggle) and the Ligue
communiste révolutionnaire (Revolutionary Communist
League) have had 5 MPs in the European Parliament for
a legislature, was it of any use ? Did these five
years of presence inside European institutions help
them to prepare a vigorous battle against the
constitutional Treaty and its consequences, not only
in France but in all Europe ?

Judging by the absence of collaboration between
European revolutionary groups during the year which
preceded the French referendum and the "no" campaign,
it is tempting to answer no to both questions. And
anarchists and libertarians as well, in nearly all the
countries of Europe, have also been incapable of
leading the smallest international campaign against
the Treaty or the issues it raises. What are the
causes for this lack of internationalism so highly
vaunted by Trotskyists and anarchists alike (1)?

This overall political blindness concerning the
decline of French imperialism, the incapacity to act
and reflect on the European level, let alone the world
level, has a fundamental reason: the reactionaries and
reformists, and even some on the supposedly
"revolutionary" Marxist Left, share the same national
lenses fogged by a jacobine universalism and
republicanism. For the Marxist Far Left, its French
references (from Jaurès to Bourdieu, via Nizan,
Bettelheim, Politzer or Poulantzas) are all
social-democrat or Stalinist statists. And when they
read anything written outside France, they don't
encounter any criticism of the State in the writings
of the Bolsheviks and about the "heyday" of the Third
International because it was that current which
theorized the domination of the Party over the trade
unions, the factory commitees, workers councils, the
State& and the working class.

As for the anarchists, their intellectual references,
although not statist, are also primarily
Franco-French. Some libertarians relentlessly harp on
a past, albeit a rich one (Proudhon, the Reclus
brothers, Fernand Pelloutier, George Sorel, Sébastien
Faure, Jean Grave, Emile Pouget, etc.), but for which
they harbour a distinctly uncritical nostalgia; for
many anarcho-syndicalists, it often seems that
revolutionary syndicalism before 1914 constitutes a
kind of unsurpassable horizon; younger anarchists are
frequently attracted by the verbal juggleries and
style of the Situationists and neo-Situationists that
are hard to count as indispensable in the daily
political struggle against Capital, or when they are
eager to know new responses, they devour, like all the
young Trotskyists as well, the prose of the statist
Left from ATTAC to Bourdieu, without always avoiding
the traps.

As far as I know, even the daily political reflection
of the most informed libertarians scarcely appears to
draw from current or past analyses done by anarchists
in other countries. Very few works by US, Spanish,
Argentinian, German, Italian and other anarchists are
translated into French, and those that are (Murray
Bookchin and Noam Chomsky are without a doubt the most
well-known) are hardly brilliant in their radicalness,
however interesting they might be. For different
reasons, Trotskyist and anarchist French
revolutionaries have not done well in distancing
themselves from their own histories and their two
national traditions, Jacobine and revolutionary
syndicalist, respectively.

The ideological depths of both Left and Right: the
cult of the State and nation

There exists, whether it pleases them or not to hear
this, a national political rhetoric common to both
Right and Left, even the Far Left in some cases. In
various proportions and in different ways, this
rhetoric draws from common themes: the Enlightenment,
the universality of the Rights of Man, republican and
secular ideology, supposed "municipal democracy", an
idealized vision of the Resistance under German
Occupation, the myth of the neutrality of the public
services and, more recently, the ideology that has
grown with the altermondialist movement:
"participatory democracy," and "citoyennisme"
(citizenism, the belief that the bourgeois State can
guarantee the equality of all citizens), which draws
from the French national-statist political tradition
and boils down to a blind faith in the lies and
illusions of bourgeois democracy.

Of course, all the republicans, partisans of
secularism and even citizenists are not chauvinists of
the worst variety and their jacobine-secular
universalism defends also some very positive concepts.
But even when they invoke vague internationalist or
altermondialist values, they are incapable of breaking
practically with the ideology that has taken numerous
forms during the history of the class struggle in
France. This ideology is based on the cult of the
State and its institutions, the belief in its
protective, progressive, nearly messianic role, an
uncritical relationship with parliamentarianism and
other ways of confiscating the will of the people. And
over the last few years, the campaigns against the MAI
agreement, or more recently, the Bolkenstein
directive, has been marked by a disturbing national
unity from Right to Left around the theme of the
superiority of the "French model", "French social
model" or of the "French cultural exception," themes
which reflect a long tradition of which I will give
some examples here.

During the Revolution of 1789, the French State
claimed to struggle against all the European
monarchies and so constitute a progressive factor for
the people, and this myth still endures two centuries
later, without the Left being able to distance itself
from it; under Napoleon, the imperial State claimed to
consolidate the Revolution's conquests by exporting
them to Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, etc., with
the help of French bayonets; in the 19th century, the
Second Empire of Napoleon III tried to play the
national unity card and form an alliance between the
antagonistic classes, what Marx correctly called
"Bonapartism," and Napoleon the Little tried to to
contain the Empire's newly born workers' movement.

In 1914, the socialist parties and trade unions
shamefully capitulated, refusing to call a general
strike against World War I, a strike they had talked
about for years in their congress motions, and the
socialists voted for war credits.

During the 1930's, Belgian socialist currents (De Man)
and French ones (notably Marcel Déat, a
"neo-socialist") defended the idea that strong State
economic involvement was necessary to handle the
international crisis of capitalism and distance the
middle class from the call of fascism. Members of the
SFIO (French Section of the Workers' International,
the socialist party), the "planistes" (strong
supporters of planning) offered their services to the
regime of Marshal Pétain, while others were later part
of starting the Common Market (André Philip).

During the Resistance and the government of national
unity presided over by De Gaulle between 1945 and
1947, there was another version of national unity in
the name of the "struggle against fascism" and "Let
each of us kill a Kraut" (Communist Party) and then in
the name of the indispensable reconstruction of French
capitalism ("The strike is the weapon of the trusts,"
Maurice Thorez, general secretary of the CP).

Since 1945 incidentally, the Left and (Gaullist) Right
joined in evoking the "social conquests of the
Resistance," forgetting the price paid for
them--making the workers toil for starvation wages,
stuffing the pockets of the bosses and the State for
decades and supporting all the colonial and
neo-colonial adventures of French imperialism.

Under the Fifth Republic from 1958 to 1969, this cult
of the State and its supposed protective and "wealth
re-distributing" role grew notably via the economic
plans and charisma of DeGaulle, whose anti-US foreign
policy was supported by the French Communist Party,
the same party that led the repugnant campaign in the
70's, ""Let's produce French"; and during negotiations
on the Common Program in the 1970's and the first two
tears of the 1981-83 united Left government, we still
had a "Left" version of this national-statist
ideology: the nationalization of some banks, insurance
companies and key industries was supposedly going to
change the lives of all the oppressed and exploited.

A "no" campaign in which internationalism has been
totally absent

In 2005 with the so-called "NO of the Left" campaign,
supported by the clowns of the "Socialist Party Left"
and part of the altermondialist movement, without
forgetting the inevitable LCR (2), we have winessed a
new blossoming of the statist ideology, clearly
evident in their writings and propaganda.

The "NO of the Left" campaign has tolerated or stirred
among the electorate and Left sympathizers the most
ambiguous forms of anti-US sentiment in the name of
denunciations of NATO and the WTO, as well as
xenophobic sentiments against:

- the unfortunately famous "Polish plumbers" (3) (it
has just been learned after the elections that there
were only 150 to 180 of them in all of France),

- the Chinese textile industry (on Monday, May 30,
2005, during a televised report on the European
Constitution referendum on France 2 TV, a CGT rep had
the cynicism and audacity to denounce "Chinese
competition" without once mentioning the fate of 19
million Chinese workers superexploited in their

- or the entry of Turkey into the EU (reviving
xenophobic, racist and anti-Muslim prejudices).

Faced with this resurgence of nationalist prejudice,
the so-called Far Left and the reformist Left chose to
turn a deaf ear toward the phenomenon and minimize it
because it wanted to surf on the "NO of the Left"
wave. Furthermore, it is particularly disgusting to
see the Far Left claim the "NO of the Left" had an
"internationalist" dimension while it had been
incapable, since the strong probability of a
referendum was announced, of organizing the smallest
campaign, even a set of meetings, of revolutionary
forces of different EU countries to critique the
Constitutional Treaty and explain the real issues for
all European proletarians, not only the French ones.
And, considered overall, this "no" vote (there was no
means of distinguishing between Right "no" votes and
Left "no" votes) was far from internationalist since
42 % of "no" voters think that "there are too many
foreigners in France" compared to 21 % of "yes"
voters. And the National Front (a coalition of far
right militants, ultraconservative catholics and
neofascists) voters were better mobilized to get out
the "no" vote (90 %) than those of the Far Left.

Today there is no way to differenciate the Left from
the No voters: if the Far Left had wanted to, it could
have printed its own ballots and massively distribute
them during an internationalist campaign. But that
would probably have disturbed all electoral

Where did the 6 million votes for Le Pen and de
Villiers go?

Far from being a working-class "victory" or "the
masses' revenge for Maastricht" (Alternative
libertaire, Libertarian Alternative), the "no" pseudo
"victory" is the progeny of an unnatural alliance
between 6 million Le Pen and de Villiers voters (whose
xenophobic and racist positions need no further
explanation here) with 9 million CP and SP voters (and
this estimate is optimististic because it assumes that
the traditional Right did not make the slightest
contribution to the "no" camp, which is completely
inaccurate considering there is a sovereignist Right).
Such a "victory" has nothing to do with defending the
interests of the exploited.

What chutzpah (and some scorn, too, for the
intelligence of workers) it takes to affirm that the
"no" "marginalized the Far Right"! These are the same
people who explained that it was necessary to vote for
Chirac in 2002 because 5 million Le Pen voters
represented a fascist danger? Do they want us to
believe that these 5 million dangerous voters have
today disappeared in a puff of smoke--or withdrawn
into their caves, may be ?

A "big symbolic victory"? A "huge hope"?

The anarcho-electoralists of Libertarian Alternative
also naively reveal their lack of political vision
when they write, without laughing, that the "no
victory" is a "small social victory" and a "big
symbolic victory."

Here is what revolutionaries have been reduced to
today--rejoicing at electoral victories, "symbolic"
ones at that, or the "huge hope" (LCR) raised by the
results of a referendum-plebiscite which turned
against Chirac. Incidentally, in their daily
propaganda, our revolutionaries hardly talk about
destroying the bourgeois State, forming workers'
councils, eliminating the wage system, money and
hierarchy, radically reorganizing production and
social life. They would rather call for a "break with
capitalism" (LCR) just like Mitterrand before 1981 or
threatening to "make the capitalist tremble"
(Libertarian Alternative). During the Transeuropéennes
TV show on Thursday, May 31, Alain Krivine, LCR
leader, calmly explained that "what the people want is
a France of solidarity with full employment and fair
redistribution of wealth." Well, it's maybe what "the
people" want, but if that's all the revolutionaries
have to suggest to the workers when they have the
incredible opportunity to explain their proposals on
TV, frankly they would be wiser if they kept quiet
rather than serve as mouthpieces for the most moderate

As for the "other social, democratic, environmentalist
and feminist Europe," it is only a smokescreen; it is
lying to claim that it can be magically found in the
ballot boxes and by giving "critical" support to Left

It is lying to make believe that it could come out of
a "Constituent Assembly" (4) with proportional
representation, which would give the National Front
solid representation with its 5 million voters,
without counting all the other reactionary forces that
could be unleashed if we remain within the framework
of traditional bourgeois democracy.

It is lying to affirm that this "other Europe" could
come about by holding another European Social Forum,
which would only allow all kinds of discredited Left
politicians to become born-again virgins.

Far Left militants have very little confidence in the
power and accuracy of their ideas to believe that an
electoral pseudo-victory could "lift the masses'
morale" (Libertarian Alternative). It was exactly the
reasoning as well of the LCR or the OCI (Organisation
communiste internationaliste, Internationalist
Communist Organization, predecessor of the present
Workers Party) in 1981 when they explained that the
coming to power of Mitterrand was going to raise the
hopes of the masses, and that these masses would then
"outflank the apparati" We have seen the result: an
exponential increase in unemployment, the decline of
the metallurgy, mining, shipbuilding and auto
industries and overall degradation of all the
so-called "public services," systematic attacks
against immigrant workers and blossoming of the
National Front and the public _expression of racist
ideas and behaviour, etc.

The workers who voted "no" are perhaps temporarily
happy that they've aimed a slap at Chirac and some
other representatives of the ruling class. But for the
granting power to another part of that same class--the
Left that carries out anti-worker policies every time
it is in the government. Workers don't have enough
confidence in themselves to take matters into their
own hands, taking over the factories and offices,
eliminating all hierarchies, shedding themselves of
all the repressive forces of the State, putting in
place their own power and radically changing all means
of production. "NO of the Left" supporters are only
reinforcing their illusions about the usefulness and
effectiveness of elections, illusions which --
everyone knows perfectly well -- will be betrayed

"NO of the Left" manoeuvres

The way the Left explains to us the so-called "no
victory" demonstrates once again the incurable
nationalism of its leaders. In fact, what did the
pseudo-Left leaders of the Socialist Party declare
upon learning the election results on Sunday, May 28?

"I'm proud to be French" (Henri Emmanuelli)

"Our country has a high conception of politics and
rejects an unregulated market economy" (Marie-Thérèse

"Breaking with capitalism is an empty dream" (Arnaud

The trio of Dolez-Filoche-Généreux toured France and
had about 90 meetings for the "NO of the Left." They
reveled in the "buoyancy" of "the French people"
demonstrating in the streets "like May 1981" (in
limited numbers anyway). But our three musketeers
forgot to mention all the blows suffered by the
working class at the hands of the Left in power since
those jubilant demonstrations. Loyal to the most
arrogant French nationalist tradition, our three "Left
socialists"dared to write that "the French 'no' has
created the possibility of an authentic democratic
rebuilding of Europe. It lets the rest of Europe know
that pro-Europeans have the right to say 'no' without
threatening the construction of Europe," "France must
provide the impetus necessary for a new
renegotiation," etc.

Not only do our three crackpots trumpet words like "la
France" and the "construction of Europe," and not only
do they reason in the same way as Chirac, still
believing that France will be the political head of
Europe, but they also deliberately hide the fact that
their construction of Europe, whether led by
social-liberals or social-democrats, is and will
inevitably be an attempt to construct a new
imperialist power of unimaginable proportions.
Certainly, we don't know yet whether this future
imperialist power will come into being and with what
political institutions it will be endowed, but the EU
already has its own money and will someday have its
own ultramodern military, ready to intervene on all
continents if it wants to carry out its role
completely against US imperialism and the emerging
capitalist powers of India, China and other Asian

The SP pseudo-Left has already concocted itself a
sweet program: "unity of all socialist tendencies,"
"Left unity" and a "new, democratic European
constitution." In other words, they want to have the
catbird seat in the next bourgeois Left government and
participate in running European imperialism while
giving it a democratic facade.

The Communist Party continues to wallow in its respect
for the bourgeois State cult while asking Chirac
(Chirac!) to "forcefully represent the voice of our
people and demand renegotiation of the Treaty through
real popular debate in Europe."

ATTAC has its chauvinism, too, since it proposes a
tour of Europe "to explain the French 'no'," as if
Europeans were too stupid to understand and have been
waiting for the altermondialists to illuminate the
issues behind the construction of European

In it editorial of Le Monde diplomatique of June 2005
Ignacio Ramonet, member of ATTAC, gives us a perfect
example of Left chauvinism: " (&) Rebellious France
has honored its tradition of a political nation. It
has retaken its historic mission. (&) Since its
beginning, in 1958, the European construction has
exerted a more and more coercive power on all national

Altermondialists are right to criticize the
reactionary content of the European Constitutional
Treaty, but their leaders denounce "neoliberalism"
(which is a hypocrit name for capitalism) only in the
name of the French nation interests, that is of French

A revolutionary attitude would consist not of
"explaining the French 'no'" to other Europeans but of
creating together, with all the revolutionary forces
of the continent, analysis and actions to counter the
propaganda and attacks of the European ruling classes.
But we are far from that ...and it is not in any way
the objective of ATTAC and the parties of the Left.

The Far Left hawkers of Fabius, Bové and tutti quanti

Faced with the manoeuvres of the crude Left
politicians who no doubt plan to put a
"social-liberal" (aka bourgeois) like Fabius back in
the saddle, the Far Left has basically no plan to
suggest other than calling for a Left victory in 2007,
while dressing up that call with its usual
hypocritical flirtation with a "workers' government,"
"an anti-capitalist government," etc., all formulas
that are only code for Union of the Left or Plural

The Parti des travailleurs (Workers Party) militants
have their own committees, but be sure that they'll
call for voting CP-SP. Lutte ouvrière (Workers
Struggle) has not immersed itself in the "no"
committees, but it too has called for a "no" vote in
the referendum and will certainly call for voting CP,
even SP, in 2007, as it does in almost every election.

The LCR participated in the "no" committees alongside
its opponents from the SP, the Greens and some CP

Two days before the "victory," some LCR leaders were
already confiding to Libération that they intended to
continue the committees after the elections in order
to push the Left into power. And on Tuesday, May 31,
faced with accusations of divisiveness by ex-SP
minister Moscovici, Alain Krivine could only defend
himself by swearing he was "1000 % in favor of unity"
, okay, but what about anything not related to putting
Left politicians in power? By the way, didn't
Clémentine Autain (CP) craftily suggest on Monday, May
30, on I-télé that it wasn't necessary to "talk right
away about presidential elections in 2007," if not it
would destroy the No committees ? What a nice
confession that reveals the ulterior motives of all
these so-called adversaries of "social-liberalism"
with whom the LCR wants to ally itself, supposedly to
unmask them& later!

The manipulators of the Left and Far Left are slowly
going to stir things up with the support of the
altermondialists and maybe even some libertarians to
eventually pull Fabius out of their hat (or why not
Bové?) for the presidential elections. But what do
workers have to win by betting on those horses? Bitter
disillusionment and new vicious blows if they don't
mobilize themselves in their own class interests and
ignore electoral Sirens. The struggle will be long and
difficult, but it will never happen through the ballot
box or political combinations dangled before us by the
Left and Far Left.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Jun 12 2005 - 00:00:01 EDT