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(en) The Northeastern Anarchist #6 - Platformism - ALTERNATIVE LIBERTAIRE (AL) - France - interview by Nic, Bête Noire (NEFAC-Montreal)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 20 Jul 2003 16:41:32 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

Alternative Libertaire is the third largest anarchist organisation in
France today, after the syndicalist CNT-Vignoles and the synthesist
Fédération Anarchiste (FA). Influenced by platformism, their chief
aims are to further develop a class struggle anarchist tendency and to
help the emergence of a large self-managed, anti-capitalist, working
class movement. Alternative Libertaire has consistently nurtured a
strong working relationship with NEFAC's Quebec Regional Union
during the three short years of our federation's existence, be it through
press exchanges, discussion on the internet or actual visits. Below is
an English translation [thanks Nic! - ed] of an interview with Laurent
Scapin, the secretariat of international relations for Alternative
Libertaire. -

When was Alternative Libertaire formed?
AL: Alternative Libertaire was formed in 1991, on the basis of the `Manifeste pour
une Alternative Libertaire' (which can be read at our website in French, English and
Arabic). The goal was to create an organisation that could go beyond the small lib-
ertarian communist groups of the time. Consequently, two components were the
principal contributors to the formation of Alternative Libertaire: l'Union des
Travailleurs Communistes-Libertaires (UTCL), which was primarily made up of liber-
tarian syndicalists, and le Collectif Jeunes Libertaires (CJL), a youth organisation.
Reading Alternative Libertaire (monthly magazine of the organisation) or
Débattre (theoretical magazine), we see very few references to platformism.

Does AL consider itself a platformist organisation as such?

AL: Arshinov's Platform and "platformism" are indeed a part of our "ideological bag-
gage". But we're not attached to them in a dogmatic way. We think that part of the
text, written in the 1920's, is now obsolete and is not adapted to the political realities
we live with in France today. That is why we rarely make references to `The Platform'
or to platformism. We identify with the spirit of platformism, and say so, but we don't
identify with every word written in the original platform! We are still convinced of the
importance of anarchists being organised, and to also have a clear political and
strategic line. To that effect, yes, we are platformists.

What areas of struggle is Alternative Libertaire most active in?

AL: A wide question, because the militants of Alternative Libertaire are active in
many social movements. In unions, first, and in particular with the alternative unions
of Groupe des 10-Solidaires. For us, the struggle of workers, direct victims of the
capitalist system, remains central. Unionism, syndicalism and interventions in work-
places are thus fundamental. The rail workers of Alternative Libertaire produce a
workplace bulletin, for example.
We are also present in many other movements: anti-fascist, anti-racist (including
support for non-status immigrants), anti-sexist and anti-militarist (we are particularly
involved in mobilisations against war: it's important to remember that Alternative
Libertaire was constituted during the first Gulf War, so it's a big issue for us), eco-
logical (against nuclear energy, for example), movements of the unemployed and
precarious workers. Another important area of intervention is our international activ-
ity. It consists of international solidarity through our participation in the ILS
(International Libertarian Solidarity) network, occasional support actions, and sup-
port for the anti-colonial struggle in Palestine. It also consists of our participation in
the anti-globalisation movement. We are right now mobilising against the next G8
summit, which will take place in France in June 2003.

During the last French presidential elections, we heard that you called on the
voting population to vote for Chirac (right) against Le Pen (far right), can you
explain to us the context within which this choice was made?

AL: We didn't call to vote for Chirac. But we didn't call for abstention either. We
called that not one voice, and in particular a worker's voice, be for Le Pen, which is
totally different. We respect the autonomy of all local AL groups, and some took a
position in favour of voting for Chirac, but that wasn't a majority position nationally.
The militants of Alternative Libertaire are active and convinced anti-fascists, and we
know that above all it is social struggles that can push back the far-right. That's
mainly what we expressed, much more than on the fixed question in the second
round of voting. A minority of militants from Alternative Libertaire, myself of them,
think however that the ballot box can sometimes, when necessary, be an anti-fascist
weapon, as during the last presidential elections.

Can we understand that you reject anti-electoralism, a traditional anarchist

AL: A position on elections is a totally secondary tactical decision compared to social
struggles. It's quite surprising to see anarchists spending hours talking about elec-
tions when we give them so little importance. We think we have a non-dogmatic
position about voting. Although we think nothing positive will come out of them for
the exploited, we also think that very negative things can. We positioned ourselves
on elections because we feel concerned by these issues. But we consider every sit-
uation, without any prior reasoning.

Considering unionism and syndicalism, there exist a wide variety of unions
and syndicalist organisations in France (at least by North American stan-
dards). Does AL as an organisation have a particular preference for one type
of unionism or do your members get involved with the union that make the
most sense at their workplace?

AL: What's most important is the organisation of workers against the bosses. For
us, a union is a tool of mass struggle that goes beyond political divergences (anar-
chists, Communists, and more importantly the large mass of non-politicised people).
The militants of Alternative Libertaire are unionised in all kinds of labour organisa-
tions (SUD and other unions of the US-G10, CNT-Vignoles, CGT, FO, CFDT), in con-
nection with what's going on the ground and within the company. We don't have any
kind of union policy, and we scrupulously respect the autonomy of labour move-
We work in unions to impel struggle, and to push positions that are democratic
and advance social change. That's why we are more comfortable in alternative and
rank and file based unions like SUD.
About revolutionary organisations, what is your relationship with the other
political anarchist organisations that are active in France? We are thinking
particularly about the Fédération Anarchiste (FA)...
AL: Until two years ago, relations between the different French anarchist organisa-
tions were really tense, even prone to open conflict. But things have changed a lot.
We now have cordial relations with the Fédération Anarchiste. We meet regularly,
locally as well as federally. That's how we were able to make common proposals in
preparation for the anti-G8 mobilisations in France next June.
Our relations are also much improved and have clearly increased with the No
Pasaran network and Organisation Communiste Libertaire (OCL), thanks to our
international work. Our three organisations are members of the network
International Libertarian Solidarity (www.ils-sil.org). We work really closely together
on these issues, which allows us to create relationships of confidence and helps min-
imise conflicts.
A good example of these new relationships between anarchist organisations is
"le Forum Libertaire de Montreuil" (the anarchist forum of Montreuil, which is an east
Parisian suburb), which brings together Alternative Libertaire, la Fédération
Anarchiste and the CNT. This forum is a common voice, and the first meeting last
June brought together about a thousand people, which is a first for the anarchists in
Another initiative that was unthinkable a few years ago: Alternative Libertaire, la
Fédération Anarchiste, le reseau No Pasaran, CNT-Vignoles, l'Organisation
Communiste Libertaire et l'Organisation Socialiste Libertaire (Switzerland) met
together to prepare opposition to G8 meetings, discussed openly and accepted to
work as a whole in the same direction!

On the other hand, we can imagine that the heritage of a strong and organised
anarchist movement (as it is the case in France) brings benefits to today's
anarchist organisations. What is the influence of having worked with impor-
tant theoreticians such as Daniel Guérin from the time of the Union des
Travailleurs Communistes Libertaires (UTCL) or Georges Fontenis within AL

AL: We hold today a rich theoretical heritage. One of the past weaknesses of the
anarchist movement has been to either perpetually reinvent the wheel by forgetting
it's past, or refuse to get out of a sacred anarchist dogma, which doesn't permit
advancement. People like Daniel Guérin broke with these vicious circles and made
it possible to rethink our struggle along a non-sectarian basis. Unfortunately, for
years this has been misunderstood by other components of the French anarchist

You participate in the International Libertarian Solidarity (ILS), an internation-
al network of anarcho-communist and anarcho-syndicalist organisations that
seeks to help the material development of the international anarchist move-
ment, notably the Latin American movement. Can you explain briefly the proj-
ects of the ILS?

AL: The International Libertarian Solidarity network was formed in 2001 on the ini-
tiative of the Spanish Confederation General del Trabajo (CGT) to share reflections
on our struggles, to network the international relations that everyone has bilaterally,
and to support concrete projects of international solidarity that prove that anarchists
can build on a day to day basis.
The current projects are supportive of South America. In Uruguay, we are help-
ing the FAU finance a free space in Colon, and a truck for street propaganda. In
Brazil, we're helping the FAG finance the construction of a community hall in Sepe
Tiaraju, the creation of an anarchist press and the reconstruction of the warehouse
for a co-operative of (steel) recycling workers. In Argentina, we support our OSL
comrades publication `En la Calle'. Our network now has about twenty organisations
and we've already given, together, many thousand dollars to our South American

Finally a big question. How do you see the future of the international anarchist

AL: At the last AL conference, in November 2002, we've noticed a qualitative and
quantitative progress of our organisation. We've moved one step ahead. However,
we're still far away from bringing about the project of a true anarchist left, a revolu-
tionary project that has a real political impact. But things are advancing politically.
The formation of the ILS network, the capacity of the main French anarchist organi-
sations to regroup and work in the same direction on the anti-G8 mobilisation are
encouraging signs. But at the same time, we also see the limitations. We're lacking
spaces of debate, to confront ideas, to elaborate collectively. You always progress
better being numerous than alone.
It's not a question here of falling into bureaucratic slips. But if our tendency wants
to profit from today's struggles and from the development of our ideas, we must
invent new forms of common work.
Alternative Libertaire
BP 177, 75967 Paris Cedex 20, FRANCE

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