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(en) France: Reflections on the LSF (fr,it)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 8 Dec 2003 15:54:18 +0100 (CET)

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This text is a contribution by libertarians from Nantes towards an
analysis of the LSF. It is the responsibility of all of us if the LSF
did not meet expectations or if it was not ambitious enough. We feel it
is necessary to reflect collectively, so that we do not fall back into
the parochial squabbles which have so often paralysed the libertarian
movement. Once again, after the experience of the CLAAAC, the
organization cartel showed its limits. This initiative of the LSF and
Anarchist Bookfair had been proposed by the Fédération Anarchiste in
the month of June and, though all or nearly all the organizations and
libertarian unions, with the exception of CNT-AIT, joined this
initiative, the dynamics of the organization nonetheless remained
rather limited. The general organization essentially depended on
various FA groups, with No Pasaran instead taking care of the canteen,
of the support concert and projects regarding the opening of the squat.
We realise that one cannot have satisfactory self-managing operations
at an event such as the LSF, because of its short length and the
subtleties of the functioning. But we must make an effort to be as
integrational as possible, where we have people who want to dedicate
effort (reducing the distinction between organizers and participants).

The organizing cartel allows the signatories to appear, and thus ease
their consciences, but this does not necessarily result in really
collective organization. Even more so when dealing with something that
is taking place in Paris, with all the centralism that that implies. On
the other hand, this method excludes those who are not members of any
organization. This was one of the good things about the VAAAG
organization which depended on the formation of local collectives of
individuals, many of whom were anyway members of libertarian

Militant consumption

The premises were totally inadequate for what was to have been a
libertarian forum. Lots of narrow corridors and doors which closed at
10.30pm, no common areas where people could meet and chat, discuss, eat
and drink... Brand new premises with invigilators to keep an eye on us
all the time ... and why were they wearing LSF tags?!!

A lot of people came through the LSF. One good thing was the number of
exchanges and meetings. But why do we have to wait for an LSF in order
to do this type of thing? Do we have to have them at the same time as
other networks are engaged in their militant activity? Also,
remembering that we are questioning capitalism and the market society,
let us try to be careful that the consumerist aspect, books and
pamphlets included, are not prevalent with respect to other activities.

This consumerist attitude is not only linked to the economic question
but also to the very conception of efforts required in the realization
of an initiative like the LSF. If we consider the question of the
kitchens, the bar, the children's area, the security operations we can
find the very defects we are talking about, in other words
specialization and an absence of the assumption of collective
participational responibility, not to mention task rotation. Perhaps we
should have made clearer and more accessible appeals for participation
or set up a noticeboard in each area to assign the various jobs that
needed doing? We believe also that it would have been interesting to
organize working points (something for which space could have been
found during the Friday evening meeting, for example). How do we
conceive self-management without questioning the consumeristic aspect
of this type of initiative?

Political expression

As far as the debates were concerned, the participation at times
resembled the classic organization between speakers and listeners, even
though this is the same style that we strongly criticize in others. And
should we not ask ourselves the question of the aims and objectives of
these debates in order to go beyond observation and define an axis of
political rupture, otherwise it is the social forums which will be at
the heart of any revival.

Though the first part of the demonstration was not too bad - like any
anarchist Mayday march - the second part, where it joined the ESF demo
was a disaster. Demonstrating is a political expression. It is the
sounding box for demands and proposals. In this sense, it was important
for the LSF to state certain positions, and there was no intention at
all to clash with the Parti Socialiste, as was in fact stressed in the
statement made on Friday 14th November. During the collective meeting
of the LSF on Friday evening this position was emphasized strongly.
While the media (newspapers and radio) were announcing disturbances,
what was the best we could do? Fall in like sheep (albeit red and black
sheep) behind the PS. This political mistake was the cause of all the
problems and only served to give a sad image of libertarians.

Generally speaking - little originality both in form and in our
slogans. We could have called it a funeral right from the start (but
sure, as long as there's black, there's hope...). But even this would
have been better than some sort of military march of braggarts. Just
before reaching Place de la République, some of the CNT stewards took
up position at the head of the march, placing themsleves directly
opposite their PS counterparts. For what reason? The result was a
face-off which lasted 2 hours. Why did we stay there? Who took the
decision? We either should have joined the march or held our own
autonomous march. This wait, in front of the PS thugs, with anti-PS
slogans raining down could only have served to increase the tension
without any hope of resolving the matter with some intelligent means.
On the contrary, we even lost many people during the long wait.
Although many people suggested continuing on our way, some of the LSF
organizations (through their representatives) were opposed to this. Why
did they consider it more sensible to remain there, with growing
pressure within the libertarian sector between the various currents?

The fact that the CNT was leading the march with a sound system which
drowned out the LSF system and the slogans, and thereby did not allow
for a true reflection of the diversity of the LSF signatories, should
make us ask a few questions: was it a CNT demonstration? Anyhow, that
is what many of us who were there that day felt, and don't forget we
were there on a united demonstration. As for the "no man's land"
between the PS and the LSF march once we moved off, it was filled not
only with "autonomi" but also with a lot of young people who, rightly,
hated the PS, and who shouted "P for Pourri, S for Salaud" [pourri =
rotten, salaud = filth].

In brief, in terms of visibility the result was not poor. Stuck in the
dark at the back of the march between the stone-throwers and the riot
cops was no fun, without knowing what was happening, with the crowd
running to get away from the charging police lines, everyone shouting
contradictory orders - go slower, go faster, get the vans in front,
move them behind!. This demonstration therefore was by no means a
moment of political expression in contrast with the social forums - we
satisfied both the right wing and the left wing of the left. Can the
left be happy with the incidents which happened? Those in the ESF who
do not want the PS to play an important role are happy to see their
dirty work done by others.


Once again, the events of Saturday show that we need to address the
question of stewarding. We will be able to show the difference we
represent through our practices. We must give precedence to collective
intelligence rather than to the specialization of roles and the sexual
division of work! The stewarding is a task that allows the males to
show off their virility and to go beyond the collective mandate, but
maybe this is for the good of all and the security of the crowd...

We refuse police or military diktats, so why should we allow it within
our camp? It is not a matter of negating the question of physical
violence - it is a mater of managing it differently, with other methods
and other values. Is it permissible to see libertarians hitting out
with their little batons at those who fall under the category of
"autonomi"? To collectively manage and be able to control our march
requires a collective consciousness. By failing to do this, we place
the question of security in the hands of specialists (as this society
does) and as we well know, these specialists can acquire a certain
autonomy with time.

To go back again to the confrontation with the PS, a political space
was created specifically in order to strongly reject the PS. It is not
the "autonomi" who are to blame for what happened - it is we ourselves.

Other initiatives

At the end of the day, the libertarians did not make much effort
elsewhere - a bookfair and a demo and then everyone went off. Except
for the attempt to squat. How many libertarians took part in the
actions against Fortress Europe, in the LGTB demo or in the demo
against prisons and the security order, not to mention the paltry
reaction to the 285 arrests? Though libertarians have been
participating for several years in counter-summits and in recent months
have developed a level of political cooperation and alternative
practices, during this LSF we can only decry this step backwards. By
reviewing things collectively, we can make a positive contribution to
the continuation of our convergence which is essential if we are going
to make an impact in the coming social strugles.

Adeline (FA), Gérard, Gile, Guillaume (FA), Philippe (No Pasaran), Véro

translation by nmcn/ainfos

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