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Workers' Struggle
Lutte ouvrière
Leader Collective leadership
(Central Committee)
Nathalie Arthaud and Arlette Laguiller spokespersons
Founded 1939 (groupe Barta) 1956 (LO)
Headquarters
F-75865 Paris
Ideology Trotskyism,
Marxism,
Communism,
Proletarian internationalism
International affiliation Internationalist Communist Union
Official colours Red
Seats in the National Assembly
Seats in the Senate
Seats in the European Parliament
Website
LO
Politics of France
Political parties
Elections
Constitution of France
Parliament; Government; President

Workers' Struggle (Lutte Ouvrière) is the usual name under which the Communist Union (Union Communiste) (Trotskyist), a French Trotskyist political party, is known. In fact, it is the name of the weekly paper published by the party. Arlette Laguiller has been its spokeswoman since 1973 and has run in each presidential election, but Robert Barcia (Hardy) is its founder and central leader. Lutte Ouvrière is a member of the Internationalist Communist Union. It emphasises workplace activity and places less emphasis than other left groups on struggles outside work. It has been critical of such recent phenomena as alter-globalization.

Contents

History

Its origins lie in the tiny Trotskyist Group founded in 1939 by David Korner (Barta). This developed factory work throughout the war and was instrumental in the Renault strike of 1947, along with the anarcho-syndicalists. The group was exhausted by this effort and collapsed in 1952.

After attempts to revive the Trotskyist Group, Voix Ouvrière was founded in 1956 by Robert Barcia, known as Hardy and the group's pre-eminent leader, and by Pierre Bois, a leading activist in the Renault plant. Effort was made to involve Barta but disputes between him, Hardy and Bois prevented it.

VO established itself through the 1960s by producing mass factory bulletins, usually weekly. The Communist Party of France (PCF) retained its hegemonic position within the workers' movement in France and its members sometimes tried to prevent the distribution of VO bulletins. In part this explains the continued use of semi-clandestine operation within VO and in LO today.

After being banned due to its support of the Students Revolt of May' 68, the group became Lutte Ouvrière.

1970s until today

An ongoing issue is the possibility and conditions of cooperation with fellow Trotskyist party the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, the French section of the reunified Fourth International. In 1970, LO initiated fusion discussions with the LC (as the LCR was then called). After extensive discussions, the two organisations had agreed the basis for a fused organisation. However, the fusion was not completed. In 1976 discussions between the Ligue and Lutte Ouvrière progressed again. The two organisations started to produce a common weekly supplement to their newspapers, common electoral work and other common campaigning. Since then on occasions the two organizations have stood joint candidates at some elections.

LO has made great efforts to stand in elections either on its own or in an alliance with the LCR. Arlette Laguiller has, as a result, become well known to the public as LO's perennial Presidential candidate. Another very public activity of LO is their annual fete which is held in the grounds of a chateau which the organisation purchased for that purpose in 1981. The annual Fête de Lutte Ouvrière is probably the largest public gathering of the revolutionary left in Europe at this point in time.

The early 1970s also saw two breakways from Lutte Ouvrière. The first such split in 1974 was centered on Bordeaux and took the name l'Union Ouvrière but rapidly disintegrated. So much so that when another small split group that developed a year later expected to be able to fuse with l'Union Ouvrière, it found it had already disappeared and were forced to form their own organisation as a consequence. This new group, Combat Communiste, was to evolve into Socialisme International, the affiliate of the International Socialist Tendency.

Another more recent breakaway developed after Arlette Laguiller's relatively high electoral results in the 1990s and LO's statement that this meant that a new workers' party was a possibility. This statement, as well as a dispute over the personal code members were expected to abide by, led to the departure of over 100 members to form the Voix des Travailleurs grouping. This later fused with another smaller group but has more recently joined the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire as a recognised faction. In the period up to 2008, a minority faction existed within LO and appeared publicly, although its supporters were segregated in their own cells.

LO has supported the 2004 French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools. It considers that the hijab s are a "visible sign of women's submission to their husbands and brothers". While considering the law as hypocrite, L.O. stated that it could "help women who try to resist ambient sexism in their familial or social environment" 25 April 2003).

Following the very low score of Arlette Laguiller at the first round of the April-May 2007 presidential election (1,33%, compared to 5,72% in 2002), the party was left with a debt of 1,4 millions Euros. According to Michel Rodinson, a party official, the campaign cost was in total 2 million Euros (800,000 of which are paid by the state). The rent of the Zenith for meetings in Paris, as well as the December political poster campaign, account for most of the expenses.[1]

In the local elections in 2008, Lutte Ouvrière broke with tradition by joining the Socialist Party-led slates by the first round of the elections in a number of towns, preferring this tactic to the more usual option of cooperating with other far left groups to run a joint election campaign. Because an organized minority faction supported some lists running against lists supported by the party leadership, Lutte Ouvrière suspended the faction from the organization. The position of the faction will be finally decided at the next national conference, but the faction is expected to be expelled. The faction has agreed to take part in the initial stages of the New Anticapitalist Party set up by the LCR with others, though this may not be a long-term strategy, with one member explaining it as "foot in both camps" strategy.[2]

Unlike in 2004 and 1999 when it ran common lists with the Revolutionary Communist League, LO will run autonomous lists in the 2009 European Parliament election.

Leadership

Arlette Laguiller

For long, the internal organisations of the party were largely unknown to the general public, the spokeswoman and regular presidential candidate Arlette Laguiller being the only party leader appearing in public. Even to party members, some leaders were known only by cadre names. Such measures of secrecy were justified by the possibility that the party may have to enter clandestinity, should there be a highly repressive government in place. For similar reasons, marriages and children were (and still are) discouraged. Bernard Seytre, a member of LO for 20 years, conifrmed the "iron discipline which rhythms the life of this Trotskyist organisation, whose responsibles [cadres] do not have the right to have children, least they be excluded".[3]

Lutte Ouvrière has thus been criticised by political opponents during the 2002 presidential campaign as being a political cult, for example by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, his older brother Gabriel Cohn-Bendit, L'Humanité and Libération.[4][5]

In part this strict disciplinary attitude has enabled LO to be a very stable organisation in contrast to the instability that they allege characterises so many other left groups. In fact LO is a difficult organisation to actually join and after becoming a member individuals are expected to conform to a code of conduct which is considered old fashioned by some critics.

Arlette Laguiller, candidate in the 2007 presidential elections under the LO, gained 1.33 %.

International relations

LO maintains relations with the following other Trotskyist groups (Internationalist Communist Union):

References

See also

External links

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