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Le Monde Interviews Trotskyist Leader Alain Krivine

‘For United Action Against Giscard and Austerity’

(October 1980)

From Intercontinental Press, Vol. 18 No. 44, 24 November 1980, pp. 1223–1224.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Alain Krivine, a member of the political bureau of the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR), the French section of the Fourth International, is the LCR’s candidate for president in the 1981 elections.

Krivine’s candidacy faces a major obstacle, however. Since the last presidential elections in France the law has been changed to make it harder for small par ties to get on the ballot. In order for Krivine to run he will have to secure the signatures of 500 elected officials, no more than 50 of whom can be from a single department. Krivine’s supporters are now waging a campaign to get elected officials of the Communist Party and Socialist Party, both of which opposed the new law in parliament, to sign for Krivine’s right to run.

Krivine’s campaign focuses on overcoming the division of the working class between the CP and SP and between competing union federations.

French elections take place in two rounds. Krivine calls for all working-class candidates to agree in advance that in the second round they will step down in favor of whichever workers candidate received the highest vote in the first round. If this is done the French workers will be able to vote for a single working-class alternative to President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.

The October 29 issue of the Paris daily Le Monde featured a front page interview with Krivine regarding his attitude toward the elections, which will take place on April 26, and May 10, 1981. We are reprint ing that interview, conducted by Patrick Jarreau, below. The translation is by Intercontinental Press.

* * *

Question: What policies will you put forward in this presidential campaign?

Answer. We have a simple objective. First of all, we must do everything possible to impose unity[of the workers movement] and to get rid of Giscard and his policy of austerity and repression. Today, with the many scandals of all kinds, we could say that there is a real Mafia in the highest posts, serving the big bosses and the little Nazis.

Then too, by sweeping away the right wing in these elections we would create conditions that are a thousand times more favorable for mobilizing the workers to win their demands.

Q. Do you think these conditions could be created with the Socialist Party as it is today?

A. There are no basic programmatic differences between the Communist Party and the Socialist Party. Neither of them wants to move to socialism. With some differences regarding the extent of nationalizations, both of them propose to run the capitalist economy better.

When we vote for them on the second round, we do not vote for their program, but rather we will he voting against the right. The defeat of Giscard would be a victory for the workers, regardless of the program put forward by [possible SP candidates] Rocard or Mitterrand or [the CP’s] Marchais.

Q. You say that there is no difference in program between the SP and the CP, and yet there is no Common Program.

A. That is because the CP and SP share a common feature. Neither of them wants to go into the government with the other one on the basis of a powerful, united mobilization of the workers.

This is very clear in the case of the Communist Party. The CP’s main target is not Giscard but the Socialist Party. There fore,in its competition with the SP, it tries to project itself as the party of struggle. Georges Marchais says that automatic stepping down in the second round is “outdated” because this “anti-Giscardian” sees the defeat of the president as “six of one, half-a-dozen of the other.”

When the CP candidate speaks of “struggles, struggles, and more struggles,” with out ever trying to coordinate these struggles (except perhaps for twenty-four hour periods every once in a while), and while refusing to provide these struggles with a united political focus, Marchais reminds me of an actor who makes stomping sounds on stage while declaiming “let’s march, let’s march, let’s march.”

Increasingly the Socialist Party wants to get into the government all by itself. It wants to manage the austerity with the help of CP votes, but without any CP ministers in the government. The SP says it is for unity. But it has not clearly said it would unconditionally step down in the second round in favor of Marchais if Marchais should do better than the SP candidate in the first round, and it certainly hasn’t come out in favor of a government of the CP and SP.

Q. Do you think that both parties will reject the moves toward unity that you are talking about?

A. Both the CP and SP reject this unity, but to different degrees. The CP openly rejects it with the ultra-sectarian course that Georges Marchais and his party are putting forward. They are trying to rally the working class solely around the CP and its general-secretary as the candidate, and they oppose any unity in action with the SP, whether in concrete struggles or in the electoral arena.

One gets the impression that the CP is doing everything it can to drive the SP into the arms of the right, forgetting that the millions of workers who vote for the SP see that party as a vehicle for fighting the right.

Although perhaps in a less obvious way, the SP too encourages disunity, particularly with its many winks in the direction of the Gaullists, which increasingly resembles a mutual political assistance operation.

The SP leadership, which is preparing itself to manage the economic crisis for the capitalists, is unable to answer the CP’s policy of dividing the workers by proposing that the two parties get involved in a concrete plan for mobilizing against the austerity,for example with a campaign for the thirty-five-hour work-week with no cut in pay.

This existing political division is reflected on the trade-union level by virtual civil war between the CGT [General Confederation of Labor] and the CFDT [French Democratic Confederation of Labor], which flies in the face of the common interests of the workers. The CGT calls for struggle, without doing anything to prepare for a joint movement. The CFDT, with its policy of “recentering its focus” [from political to economic issues], seeks only to negotiate some crumbs from the austerity policy.

Edmond Maire [of the CFDT] and Georges Séguy [of the CGT]in fact both take responsibility for seeing that the trade-union organizations serve as trans mission belts for their political factions.

Q. Do you think it is possible to change this situation?

A. This requires the mobilization of the workers. We know there are millions of workers throughout the country who are sickened by this fratricidal warfare. They feel they were duped in 1978 [when the Union of the Left between the SP and CP broke up].

Between 1972 and 1978 the CP and SP called demonstrations of hundreds of thou sands of people around the slogan “Unity, Action, Common Program”! Having done that, you cannot with impunity decide in twenty-four hours that this unity was not good unity, that the program was not a good program, and then resolutely turn your back on any perspective for unity.

Q. On what do you base your assertion that there is this disgust?

A. You can see this reaction on the trade-union level. While some activists have abandoned all union activity in disgust, a growing number have decided to take part in the struggle for unity.In the last several months we have seen the development of trade-union oppositions in all the union federations of both the CGT and the CFDT. Although these oppositions are still unorganized, they have made themselves felt in the union conventions, with amendments and motions that share two common features. They are saying: sweep away the trade-union disunity; sweep away the divided struggles that lead no where. We want united activity by all the unions against the austerity.

We also see this pro-unity current on the political level, with the success of the petition for unity in struggles that was signed by forty thousand people and that gave rise, for the first time, to united committees that brought together members of the CP and SP, trade unionists, and revolutionary activists.

Q. Does this current have much capability for carrying out initiatives on its own?

A. We saw its capacity last May Day when a call from several dozen officials of CGT and CFDT unions and several hundred union members led to a pro-unity contingent joining the CGT and CFDT contingents. Recently 1,300 unionists demanded a united response to Giscard’s visit in Lille. We could cite other examples too.

We think that it is vital today to insure that in one way or another hundreds of thousands of workers mobilize to force the CP and SP to reach an agreement on stepping down in the second round. This could avoid a repetition of the farce of the March 1978 elections, when they stepped down only grudgingly.

The CP and SP machines would he forced to take this current into account, which would also give the workers more confidence in their struggle against the regime.

Q. Why is it that after a dozen years of existence the LCR is not strong enough to impose unity of action on the CP and SP, since you say that this unity alone re sponds to the aspiration of the workers?

A. The situation of the LCR is changing. When we spoke against the [Union of the Left’s] Common Program, calling it an agreement concocted by the political chieftains without the participation of the workers, we were treated as splitters.

Today a significant portion of the working class is beginning to draw up a balance sheet, and they are seeing that the real splitters are not the people who were originally charged. In no way is the LCR responsible for the present disunity of the workers movement.

The workers are beginning to recognize the character of the electoralist maneuvers of the Union of the Left and the Common Program, which they never had anything to do with. That is why our policy of workers unity is getting a bigger hearing. In this election we want to try to break through the vicious circle where hundreds of thousands of people who are tired of the policies of the CP and SP and have some sympathy for the ideas we put forward, say that we are too small. Okay,this time they have the chance to vote for their ideas on the first round. They have a chance to say “no” to the maneuvers that led from false unity to real disunity, to say “no” to the present policies of the CP and SP,and to cast a vote, which could he decisive,for unity in the second round to assure the success of the left candidate against Giscard.

Q. The Trotskyist current, of which you are a part, will also be divided, with two candidates for 1981. Does this fact do anything to increase the confidence of these voters?

A. Whenever possible, we do everything we can to have joint activities or campaigns. Still, there has to he agreement on the basic themes.

This time, unfortunately, Arlette Laguiller and Lutte Ouvrière have an analysis that is the opposite of ours. They argue that the left parties and right parties are the same thing. This leads them to reject any policy of unity and (like the PSU’s [United Socialist Party] candidate Huguette Gouchardeau) not to take a position in favor of stepping down, meaning not to take a position in favor of the defeat of Giscard. While this position might get some support in the election, it is dangerous.

All this could still change if Lutte Ouvrière changed its attitude on this key point.

Q. The Organization Communiste Internationaliste, another Trotskyist formation, is waging a campaign in favor of the whole left running a single candidate.

A. That fight is lost in advance, and it is a bad fight. It is logical that in the first round each of the workers formations should present its own program to the workers.

Q. Do you think you will be able to collect the 500 signatures of elected officials that you need to get on the ballot?

A. We do not have them yet. But we are glad to see that dozens of Communist and Socialist elected officials have given us their signatures,in this way cutting across the regime’s moves to impose its own criteria of what is representative. The CP and SP deputies in parliament voted against the antidemocratic law and we are now waiting for their leaders to have the dignity to translate their words into deeds by lifting the shameful ban they have imposed on their elected officials signing for us. It would be unthinkable for these parties to he responsible for reducing us to silence.

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