Below we publish a translation of an article by Marceau Taburet that appeared on April 3, 2023 in the French media outlet Libération where he reviews the situation of the French extreme left in the protests against the pension reform imposed by President Emmanuel Macron.

The New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) and Lutte Ouvriere (LO), in both electoral and militant difficulties, intend to capitalize on the mobilization against the pension reform, where the young Révolution Permanente movement has already made a name for itself on the extreme left.

On January 21, in Paris, blue skies and sunbeams disguise the frigid temperatures. On the way between the Plaza de la Bastilla and the Plaza de la Nación, thousands of young people march against the pension reform, presented a few days earlier. A truck open to the four winds makes its way through the crowd. On board, left-wing personalities take turns at the microphone to speak for a few minutes. The sound is bad and the protesters only half listen. It is the turn of Olivier Besancenot, a leader of the NPA (New Anti-Capitalist Party). He is moved: “The mobilization of yesterday’s generations is with us today. We are going to stop society, we are going to stop the country.” The tone is sure, the sentences perfectly chiseled. His name is then chanted “Olivier, Olivier!”. “A revenant,” laughs a woman huddled in a black coat. It took him five minutes to wake up the crowd. “Something happened when Besancenot spoke. We had almost forgotten how good he is,” admits a deputy from La Francia Insumisa (LFI).

The old postman puts all his forces into the battle. He knows that a lot is at stake. It is not because of him, who has always resented the “personalization of power”, but because of the organization he represents, the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA). The party, heir to the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR), is mired in an internal crisis and broke out in December. Supporters of an autonomous and revolutionary line were invited to go elsewhere, and the NPA now officially adopts a united line, along with the other leftist forces, including Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s LFI. Reduced to very modest proportions, the party is counting on the fight against the pension reform to recover its health. Is it a winning bet? In any case, the breadth of the mobilization against the government project gives new impetus to the anti-capitalist left. “The social movement has raised its head, and so have we,” confirms Christine Poupin, a member of the NPA leadership. “It is a period in which everything goes very fast, everything is more dense and intense.”

“Part of the younger generation is clearly anti-capitalist”

For the activists who every day prepare the ground for the revolution, seeing the French people on strike and in the streets is a relief. The extreme left feels encouraged by a current affairs that does not stop mobilizing its favorite subjects. And a priority objective has been set: young people. The same ones that, for some, participate in their first demonstrations. “For them, it is about a political formation accelerated from the beginning of the mobilization”, points out Christine Poupin. “The role of the state, of its institutions, of the police… is a crash course.” A process that is all the easier to undertake since “part of the younger generation is now clearly anti-capitalist,” says historian Ludivine Bantigny, a specialist in revolutions and professor at the University of Rouen. “There is, in society, a lot of reflection and questioning about capitalism. We have returned to that. In the 90s it had completely disappeared. It was considered an obvious system, the least bad of all.” It remains to be seen if this momentum translates into support, as at this point there is no guarantee that the opponents of pension reform will decide in large numbers to broaden the mobilization through partisan commitment.

In the ongoing battle, a very young organization is doing well. Permanent Revolution (PR) -whose name refers to a Karl Marx formula taken up by Leon Trotsky- wants to be the reference tool in social struggles. Halfway between a political party and a media outlet, RP deploys its forces on pickets, in general assemblies, in demonstrations… The result: the movement has made a name for itself on social networks and benefits from unprecedented media exposure. “It is the result of work launched at various levels,” explains Elsa Marcel, lawyer and member of Révolution Permanente. “Firstly, we follow the struggles intensely and as close as possible to the ground. Secondly, we support ourselves in strategic places, above all in the universities, but also in the agri-food sector, in the SNCF (railways), in the refineries , etc.”.

Recently invited to television studios, especially on the France 5 and BFM TV channels, Elsa Marcel is a fashionable figure who masters the art of public speaking with brio. The same is true of Ariane Anemoyannis, a student at the Paris-I university and face of the movement. Faced with the supposed “passivity” of other parties such as Lutte Ouvrière (LO), and the “stagnation” of the NPA in its internal fights, RP intends to embody a third way and bring out “new profiles”. “On social media, people say it’s good to see young women asserting themselves and standing up for themselves,” says the lawyer.

Inflicting his “first setback” on Macron

A feat when you think that the organization, born from a split from the NPA, was officially created in December, at a founding congress in Paris. “We knew that the pension battle would be our baptism of fire,” says Elsa Marcel. “We want to take advantage of the test of the class struggle,” she added. A handful of personalities came to support PR initiatives, including actress Adèle Haenel, philosopher Frédéric Lordon and rapper Médine. The latter was present at the Normandy refinery on March 24 to challenge the requisitions against the workers.

The challenge now is whether these organizations will be able to influence the course of this battle. Christine Poupin is convinced that the fight with the government “will not be on the same terms as we win or lose.” The LO, which eschews joint meetings from the left unlike the NPA, which regularly shares the stage with other forces, hopes to inflict its “first setback” on Emmanuel Macron: “It would be a fulcrum for new battles over our wages and working conditions “, affirms the Trotskyist organization. In the case of Révolution Permanente, they want to capitalize on “the aspirations for a profound transformation of society”, expressed in particular by young people, lashing out at a “regime that has run out of breath”. “There is great receptivity to our ideas,” insists Elsa Marcel. We get many requests to join us. It is not yet the “Great Night” but, as Ludivine Bantigny reminds us, “revolution is a slow preparation that goes through movements of social struggle.”


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