Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Class War? A Chat with the Experts

I went into town (Paris) this weekend and had the real pleasure of chatting with some representatives of the French political party, Lutte Ouvrière (The Worker's Struggle).  Why was it a pleasure?  Well, it's rather refreshing to talk with people who have a completely different take on current events and who have very strong and usually thoughtful convictions about what it all means.  Over the years I have known (and count among my friends and colleagues) people from the French Communist Party which until recently enjoyed a fair number of adherents here in France.  One woman in particular (an American who has lived here over 20 years) earned my deep respect for her work on behalf of employees at one company I worked for.  She spent a great deal of time at the prud'hommes (the French court for labor disputes) defending workers who the union felt were unjustly fired - in particular older workers over 50 who were shed primarily because of their age.

The Lutte Ouvrière is separate from the PCF (Parti Communiste Francais).  They are Trotskyites and have serious differences with the other sort.  I think this paragraph in their program sums up their position quite nicely:
Lutte Ouvrière est une libre association de femmes et d’hommes, jeunes ou anciens, travailleurs manuels ou intellectuels, qui ne se résignent pas à l’idée que le capitalisme serait le seul avenir possible pour l’humanité. Qui n’acceptent pas les idées reçues selon lesquelles l’individualisme serait le seul comportement responsable, et la loi de la jungle, le chacun pour soi, la règle normale de fonctionnement de l’humanité. Qui ne se résignent pas à l’idée qu’il serait impossible de mettre les fantastiques possibilités offertes par la science et la technique au service de toute l’humanité. Qui ne se résignent pas, en somme, à l’idée que la société inhumaine et barbare dans laquelle nous vivons serait le fin mot de centaines de milliers d’années d’évolution de l’humanité.
The Worker's Struggle is a free association of women and men, young and old, blue collar and white collar workers, who are not resigned to the idea that capitalism is the only possible future for humanity.  Who do not accept the current ideas that individualism is the only responsible behaviour and that the "law of the jungle" and "everyone for himself" is the normal rule by which humanity functions.  Who disagree with the notion that it is impossible to put all the possibilities offered by science and technology at the service of the human race.  Who do not believe that the barbaric and inhumane society in which we live is the final word in the thousands of years of human evolution. 
Nous voulons changer le monde. Nous restons profondément convaincus que le communisme est l’avenir du genre humain.
We want to change the world.  We remain profoundly convinced that communism is the future of humanity.
Powerful stuff and, yes, they are quite serious about it.  And you certainly don't have to agree with them to find their ideas interesting.  Here is what I gleaned from my talk with them:

1.  They are very clear about differentiating themselves from what they refer to as the "Stalinists."  They reject any association with the bloody regimes of Stalin, Mao or North Korea.
2.  They don't believe a "social contract" exists.  Capitalism is evil, has always been evil and is directly responsible for the evil in the world.  It cannot be redeemed or improved.
3. They are a bit amused by the notion that, for example, the Occupy Wall Street people are being accused of starting a "class war."  From their perspective the "war" was declared long ago, we are smack in the middle of it today and the capitalists started it, not the workers or the demonstrators.  If you need further proof of their unswerving belief in this war, just have a look at their monthly magazine which is called "Lutte de Classe" (Class Struggle/Battle/War).   
4.  They consider themselves to be an international organization.  They are against anti-immigrant rhetoric and measures and they are for working people everywhere regardless of the country in which they work.  As I talked with them, an older Frenchman walked by and muttered, "Les Grecs ne paient pas leurs impots." (The Greeks do not pay their taxes.) To which they replied quite firmly that this fact was not the fault of the Greek, French, German or any other European worker and their view is that workers should not be made to suffer because of the idiocy and cruelty of bankers and governments.

The joy in talking with members of a minority party is that they know they won't win the elections so they can pretty much say what they think with no softening of the message to appeal to the broadest possible audience.  In other words, they see no need to prostitute themselves for votes.  If you are interested, their program can be found here on their website.  Their candidate for the 2012 French presidential election is Nathalie Arthaud.  

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