France insubordinate: the word to the militants! For a democratic party!

Since 2017, Revolution defends the need to transform the movement of insubordinate France (FI) into a veritable left democratic. [1] This presupposes, among other things, formal memberships (in return for contributions), elected and revocable management at all levels, and therefore the organization of local and national Congresses at regular intervals.

The crisis that has erupted at the top of the movement highlights the urgency of such change. But first, let’s get the facts straight. During the Representative Assembly of the FI, on December 10, the new organization chart of the bodies of the movement was presented. There will be ten “spaces” (action sectors) and a “coordination of spaces”, which will be the executive direction. The members of these bodies were not elected, but appointed. By whom and according to what criteria? Like most IF activists, we don’t know.

Several of the movement’s best-known deputies – including Clémentine Autain, François Ruffin, Raquel Garrido and Alexis Corbière – do not appear in the “coordination of spaces”. They immediately criticized this situation and the lack of democracy within the FI.

Mélenchon’s arguments

The next day, on his blog, Jean-Luc Mélenchon tried to brush aside these criticisms. ” Nothing new under the sun “he wrote: it is always “the same difficulty for the old ones to admit the new ones and the same anguish of losing media exposure to their benefit. » It is true that the withdrawal of Mélenchon cannot fail to stir up ambitions, especially presidential ones. But this does not answer the question of internal democracy, which concerns the role and rights of activistsfar from the “media light”.

Melenchon writes: “The “coordination of spaces” of insubordinate France is an operational structure. Its purpose is to federate the activity of sectors of action. They also operate independently. Its role is to coordinate, as its name suggests. So nothing to do with a “political office” or a living room for sour encounters between currents and undercurrents. The assessment of the miasmas of the era of the parties of the XXe century was drawn long ago. »

It’s not at all convincing. First, we do not see what distinguishes a “coordination of spaces” from a “political office”, apart from their names. In a party, the political bureau is Also a “operational structure”one of whose tasks is Also of “federate the activity of the sectors of action”which sectors cannot be totally “autonomous”, moreover, since it is a question of coordinating them. Whether we like it or not, to coordinate, to unite, is to lead. In practice, the “coordination of spaces” will be an executive direction of the IF. But the problem is not there. The problem is that IF activists played no role in the composition of this governing body (like the others), for lack of democratic mechanisms giving them a voice. In order for the militant base to be able to intervene, knowingly, in the composition of the leadership, national Congresses are needed preceded by local Congresses. The labor movement has invented nothing better.

Secondly, it is true that all leftist parties “of the XXe century ” degenerated, one way or another, but it was not a consequence of their inner workings. In France, for example, the degeneration of the PS had first of all a political and ideological character. Mélenchon is well placed to know, he who was for a time Secretary of State in the Jospin government (1997-2002), which privatized tens of billions of euros in public assets, among other villainies. If Jospin was eliminated in the first round of the 2002 presidential election, it was because the leadership of the PS, in power, had pursued a reactionary policy, and not because of the “currents and undercurrents” of this party. Similarly, what dealt the coup de grace to the PS, on the electoral level, was not its internal functioning; this is the reactionary policy of François Hollande between 2012 and 2017.

Mélenchon depoliticizes the history of left-wing parties to the extreme. Instead of analyzing their political excesses and betrayals, he castigates their internal functioning. He also makes the same mistake – in the other direction – about the FI, when he writes: “the electoral results obtained in 2022 are undoubtedly related to our way of organizing ourselves”. Absolutely not. Mélenchon’s 22%, last April, was the result of growing political polarization, against a backdrop of the organic crisis of capitalism, social regression, abysmal inequalities and environmental crisis. If the FI came well ahead of the PS and the Greens, it is not because its internal organization is the best. This is for two political reasons: 1) the program of the FI was much more radical than those of the PS and the Greens; 2) unlike the PS and the Greens, the FI has never been in power.

In reality, the internal functioning of the IF weighed negatively in recent election campaigns. If the FI had transformed itself into a democratic party in the wake of the success of April 2017, it would have crystallized and consolidated a significant part of the hundreds of thousands of young people and workers who, from 2016, invested themselves in the election campaign. The FI would have recruited tens of thousands more, at least, in the social storms of Macron’s first term. On the threshold of the 2022 election campaigns, the FI would have had a massive, well-established and well-organized militant force. Instead, the bulk of the FI’s militant membership evaporated after the 2017 legislative elections, for lack of a solid internal organization. and democratic. As a result, the 2022 election campaigns were marked, on the ground, by organizational amateurism, the deleterious effects of which could not be fully offset by the enthusiasm of activists. In short, internal democracy is also, and above all, a question of political efficiency.

Mélenchon castigates the ” working ” of the PS and the Greens: “five years ahead of time, a confused melee of presidential ambitions. » But obviously, the presidential ambitions are also affirmed at the top of the FI, “five years ahead of time” (or almost). What to do so that it does not take an even more form “confused” than at the PS and among the Greens? Answer: Strictly subordinate the candidate’s question to that of the line policy, and place the determination of this line in the hands of activists, on the basis of a broad democratic debate sanctioned by votes. Oh, the votes! Mélenchon doesn’t like them very much, internally, because that gives you “minorities” and “majorities”: hell. He prefers “consensus”. But in a mass organization such as the FI, the so-called “consensus” is a bureaucratic fiction, as the current crisis at the top of the FI demonstrates.

The role of a Congress

Thus, whatever their personal motivations, the leaders who criticize the lack of internal democracy at the FI point to a real problem. However, what they propose to solve this problem is not satisfactory.

For example, in an interview with Releaseon December 11, Clémentine Autain explained: “Activists have had no voice when they should be the main players in the movement. The leadership was chosen by cooptation, which favors courtiers and helps to silence criticism. No effort of pluralism was made in its composition. (…) I agree not to reproduce the battles of classic party congresses. But not by marginalizing those who have a different voice from the current ruling core. »

Clémentine Autain wants to give the floor to activists, but without Congress, that is to say without resorting to the democratic framework the largestthe one who gives the most voice and decision-making power… to militants. In a blog post published on August 11, she was pleased that the IF had “freed from internal congressional battles ». Ah, the battles of Congress are like minorities and majorities: a real headache! Might as well get rid of it by abolishing the Congresses themselves, right?

No, because when a battle is inevitable, if there is no Congress, it takes place elsewhere: through the media, on social networks, etc., that is to say in the worst possible way. , because the militants are then reduced to the role of helpless spectators, so that a certain number of them throw in the towel and leave the organization.

Furthermore, Clémentine Autain regrets that the composition of the “coordination of spaces” ruled out “those who have a different word from the current ruling core”, including his own. François Ruffin made substantially the same criticism. But is it enough to have a “different word” to claim a place in the governing bodies of the organization? No: such a claim must be based on the weight of this “word” – articulated in a political line – in the database organisation. We cannot, we must not be satisfied with a “pluralism” organized at the top, without consulting the base.

Clémentine Autain says she defends an “eco-socialist” line. It remains to be seen what this means concretely from a theoretical, programmatic and strategic point of view, but let’s admit: it’s a line. For his part, François Ruffin recently proclaimed himself a “social democrat”, which does not lack salt in view of the rich history of the betrayals of French social democracy. But let it be: it’s another line. There are still others, including that of Revolution : for the expropriation of the big bourgeoisie and the democratic planning of the economy. [2] How to ensure that all these lines are seriously debated, in the ranks of the IF, and that the militants, at the end of this debate, decide which line must dominate the direction of the organization – and what are the respective weights of the others? lines (minority)? To do this, the labor movement has invented nothing better than a National Congress preceded by local Congresses. This presupposes the transformation of the FI into a democratic party.

[1] For example in this article from January 2018: After the IF Convention: movement or party?

[2] Read in particular our Marxist critique of the FI program.

France insubordinate: the word to the militants! For a democratic party!