The french NPA on the verge of an implosion

A necessary debate on “broad parties”

Versión en español

The NPA finds itself on the verge of an implosion. The majority, which answers to the United Secretariat (US), has informed a “friendly” breakup with the other internal fractions, accused of obstructing collective functioning.

Let’s remember that this organization, born in 2008, is one of the most emblematic examples of the “broad party”. The former LCR, the trostkist-mandelist organization of United Secretariat, decided to come to an end and shape up a new political organization, the starting point of which was the withdrawal of the dictatorship of the proletariat and to put an end on the historical cycle initiated by the October Revolution. The MST celebrated the formation of the NPA, in turn, promoting in Argentina what they called “a new left”. Whereas the PTS is part of it as an internal fraction.

For decades the United Secretariat had been experiencing an extended process of degeneration and assimilation to bourgeois democracy and the adaptation to bureaucratic and petit bourgeois apparatuses. This policy of liquidationism of the IV International had an important leap with “broad parties”, for it constituted the formal denial of the premises of social revolution and the strategy of workers power. The hypothesis that the mandelists put forward was that this “broad” character was the passport to progress under the shadow of the capitalist state and the conquest of a greater support to their ranks.


After twelve years, we find ourselves with the opposite scenario, a real collapse. From 9.000 militants, it has dropped to just 2.000, and considerably less if participation in meetings and assemblies is factored in. And the hemorrhage continues. The NPA is also unable to show a different result on an electoral level, in which it only has a marginal presence. In presidential elections it reached 1%. The NPA did not stand for European elections and had a negligible participation in the municipals. It only presented a ballot in the city of Bordeaux, where it was allied to La France Insoumise (LFI, Mélenchon), getting more than 10% of the votes and winning three councilmen. Taking all this into account, the plunge is even greater if we compare it to the election of 2005, where the LCR, headed by Olivier Besancenot, collected 5% of de votes. Very enlightening indeed, as the trotskist affiliation of the United Secretariat candidate of that time was not an impediment to achieve those results. The “broad Party” ended up, paradoxically, “shrinking” the action field and the influence ratio.

This collapse should not surprise us, because the swerve towards class collaboration contributed to the development of the political space represented by the parties of the center-left (Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise, the PCF and Union de la Gauche). Even more, it was the breeding ground for the development of splits in the NPA itself which, with this strategy outlined, chose to jump the fence and join directly the ranks of whom express openly a policy of compromise and support for the capitalist social order. The splits, in this context, went mostly to the right. Of course, this also had an impact in the electoral field because, having blurred or erased class frontiers, for the left electorate is was better to vote the original version than its copy.

Going against the current of radicalization

The downward turn of the NPA takes place at the same time as an upswing in the class struggle, expressed in the explosion of the “yellow vests” and the huge transportation strikes against the pension reforms. This swerve was expressed in the presidential elections of 2018, which have been extremely clarifying.

One of the most important facts of the runoff round was the huge abstention –which went up to 25% of the electoral roll – and 10% of the vote for blank ballots. It drew a little below Macron’s votes and a little above Le Pen’s votes. Regardless of its heterogeneity, that multitude includes millions of workers and young people that rejected voting Macron as “a lesser evil”, and is also related to agitation against “the banker and the racist” and “the fatherland and the bosses” carried out by popular collectives. It is, therefore, an important action, a vote against the candidates and the parties of capital.

The “far left” went against the grain with this trend. Let’s remember that in ballotage of 2002, the LCR (predecessor of NPA) called to vote right-winger Jacques Chirac against Le Pen (father) and never retracted from that. We cannot be surprised then that, in this scenario, the NPA had tripped two times with the same rock.

The NPA did not agree with abstention – much less carried out a campaign for it. The NPA dodged the problem of the vote with the generic formula of “mobilizing” against the National Front, on the one hand, and against liberal politics, on the other, but not against Macron’s candidacy. The blank vote, on the other hand, offered the opportunity of recounting anti-capitalist forces in the ballot box, which would have worked, as it did indeed, as an alternative policy to the candidates of capital. The NPA avoided to carry out a political delimitation of the working class with both candidates of capital in the ballot box. It escaped from this battle, justifying itself in avoiding confrontation with the workers and young people that turned to the “useful vote” in favor of Macron in order to avoid a National Front triumph.

The main slogan of the NPA at the end of the campaign was “Anything but the National Front”, accompanied by others like “Not one vote for Le Pen”. That is to say, a shy vote for Macron. La Izquierda Diario maintains that there was a 180 degree turn in the campaign, but what really happened was the further pursuit of an orientation that was already in process. The PTS, it is relevant to recall, defended Poutou electoral campaign “because of its radicalism, its independence and class compass” (La Izquierda Diario, 6/5/18), instead of explaining how and why it became the opposite in 24 hours.

The crossroads of the left

This outcome lead the majority to the conclusion of exploring a closer rapprochement with the traditional left. The “friendly” separation encouraged by the majority goes in that direction. A recent laboratory of that policy was the Bordeaux election, in which the NPA participated in a coalition, as was already said, with La France Insoumise. It is important to point out that this attempt brought a huge resistance by a significant portion of NPA’s membership and forced the leadership to make some moves to ignore the vote originally taken against going to elections together with Mélenchon’s political force.

We cannot overlook that the initiative for a split comes from the majority. They have even taken the responsibility for spreading the decision to public opinion, which became an important issue because of an article published in Le Monde. This is not by chance, and it describes the attitude of the so called “minorities”, which constitute different trends that criticize the US majority from the left, which, if summed together, are practically on par with the current leadership. None of them though, worked or prepared themselves for this split and more than one was surprised by the decision adopted by the leading trend of the NPA.

The prevailing policy is to preserve and hang onto the continuity of that space when it is evident that it blocks the construction of a revolutionary party. They haven’t changed that position even facing the fact that the NPA is in ruins.

It is obvious that the split promoted by the mandelists is not at all progressive; it is oriented to a fusion with the left which is integrated to the regime. But this crisis should be taken as an opportunity to go all the way and overcome the NPA, not to rescue an exhausted experience that has been proved to be an insurmountable obstacle to create a revolutionary alternative. The aspiration to create a “revolutionary NPA” is a dead end street, it is to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and leads workers and youth vanguard to impotence. An example that deserves our attention because of its similarity is the one of the left fraction of Psol in Brasil, whose platform, in the middle of the crisis that this organization is going through, is to defend the “original Psol”, when what really should have been on the table is the nature of these “broad parties”. The NPA is an apparatus to intervene in electoral episodes but not to prepare a political working class vanguard to transitional development and revolutionary perspectives at all. That characteristic is no secret, and even less for the forces that integrate it. The NPA was never organized as a militant party of action, and even less, as an organizer and a motor of class struggle. Therefore it is a fraud to proclaim its internal transformation. However, the PTS, through La Izquierda Diario, expects to sell this adulterated product. “This is a huge political space to build this perspective and that is why it is not the time to “impress” the NPA previous to the Party Congress, on the contrary it is time to bet at the construction of the NPA, for a militant, independent and revolutionary party”.

The mash of different trends of the radical left under this common umbrella, extended in time, is a signal of a deep adaptation and, in some cases, it is related to the expectations of obtaining a parliamentary office and, therefore, of an electoralist tendency. This appetite is not absent in the CCR (the organization referenced with the PTS). La Izquierda Diario extols “the success of Philippe Poutou campaign, recently elected as city councilor of Bordeaux, should be an example of the existent potentiality for the NPA to hold an important political space, as a referent of the “extreme left”. What the article omits is that the list of candidates was an agreement made with Mélechon and hides that the fact that in that list there were candidates of the… CCR, despite the complaints within NPA militancy against that unprincipled coalition.

To characterize the NPA as a centrist space is abusive, its birth certificate implied a great regression, because it started by resigning, even formally, the construction of militant parties of action, as well as the strategical struggle for a workers government. From the very beginning, we have been faced with a liquidationist policy, opposed to a revolutionary perspective. The fact that the NPA hasn’t gone as far as other exponents of the US in other countries does not deny this.

It had been common to justify the presence and the “entrism” in “broad parties” –this has even been extrapolated to other political organizations with more vague class frontiers- for “tactical” reasons. In order to do this, the ones that promoted this position, intend to take shelter in Trotsly’s recommendations. Morenoists of different wings have been champions in this matter. But there is nothing in common between the “entrism” in, for example, the Spanish Socialist Party, that the leader of the October Revolution encouraged in a moment in which that Party was the channel for a move to the left of the Spanish workers and youth and the experience of the NPA, which embodies a right-wing evolution, since its very beginning. Beyond this fact, any consideration taken as a “tactic”, cannot ignore the passing of time. It has been twelve years since the foundation of the NPA. In a period of time so, so extended, it is not possible to talk about tactical means, which are only justified as circumstantial and short recourses.

This balance-sheet indicates that the NPA has been a blocking factor for the development of a socialist and revolutionary conscience, that has not been harmless to the progress of an important contingent of workers and young people that have been pushed towards the right or have gone back home, overcome by frustration and a discouragement proportional to all these years NPA collapse. It is necessary to make a review without concessions. The present and the future is riddled with opportunities, even more as we enter into a convulsive scenario, which is the breeding ground of great political upheavals and international crisis, of popular rebellions and the tendency to create revolutionary situations. The requirements to make the most of them depend on the strategy taken by the revolutionary left. The NPA collapse highlights the importance of building up revolutionary parties that embrace the cause of political independence and the strategy of a workers government and socialism.

Versión en español.