Below is a report by Clara Paillard of a meeting hosted by Merseyside CNWP on the fight for a working class political voice in France which was addressed by Marie-José Douet on 12 May 2008.
On the 12th May, 21 supporters of Merseyside CNWP welcomed Marie-José Douet, French socialist and member of Gauche Révolutionairre, at the Casa. She provided an inspiring insight into the political situation in France, 40 years after the May 68 revolution. Gauche Révolutionairre participates in the recent campaign for a new party in France. The Ligue Communiste Révolutionairre (LCR) has been leading the call but members of local organising committees are from many different groups and left radical tendencies.
Marie-José, also known as ‘Dadou’, has been touring England to give talks about May 68 and meet up with British comrades. On her way around England, she travelled by train and was shocked by the major differences between the state of different stations, depending on local wealth and the privatised rail companies. In France, the railways are still public but under constant attack by French government and capitalists, as are other public services, the hospitals, young people… “Who will defend the workers?” asked Dadou.
As in the UK, the lack of political alternative in France stops the struggles being translated into politics. Workers are not represented politically. “We said it for a long time: we need a New Workers’ Party,” says our French comrade.
Similar struggles are happening on both side of the Channel. Workers’ rights are constantly undermined by the forces of global capitalism. For Dadou, the new party needs to defend workers’ wages and jobs and show that the capitalist system is the global problem. A socialist alternative needs to be provided.
This new party is a tool for struggles; it should bring together different existing organisations and allow them to keep their identity as well as allow youth and new workers to join the party. It is crucial that new members are involved, can express their view and fully participate in the Party.
However, it is not that simple. Our French comrades are organising into local committees. Growth of the committees was cut across by the municipal elections, and numbers participating vary in different cities. The LCR is not homogenous; not everyone agrees on what main alliances should be made: with workers and youth in struggle, with the anti-Globalisation movement, or with the Greens. It seems important for existing groups not to dissolve themselves and keep their political identity whether revolutionary or otherwise.
Dadou said how important it is to grow numerically but also to discuss ideas for a future Party programme. We should not miss the chance to create a new workers’ party and to change society. The developing crisis will provoke big struggles against the system, which can raise the question of revolution. 40 years ago, the biggest strike in France brought 10 million people into the street. Factories were occupied, trains were stopped, ports blocked, managers locked into their offices… It shows that workers can manage themselves without the bosses. Workers of today need to regain their confidence and create new parties that represent them properly.
The French comrade concluded with a quote from a worker involved in 1968: “We belonged to no-one, we belonged to ourselves. We thought that was socialism.” Dadou added, “We need to put that question [of socialism] and confidence back on the agenda.”
Many questions were asked, making a lively discussion and the event ended up around a pint of beer late that night. This talk was part of the City of Culture 08, an alternative programme to the main celebrations, which seeks to highlight the role of the working class in the history of the city of Liverpool. For more info, see blog www.myspace.com/cityofculture08