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Workers' Struggle (Lutte Ouvrière) is the usual name under which the Communist Union (Trotskyist) (Union Communiste (Trotskyste)), a French Trotskyist political party, is known (technically, it is the name of the weekly paper edited by the party).
Arlette Laguiller is its spokeswoman.
Its origins lie in a tiny group called the 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. The group was exhausted by this effort and collapsed in 1952.
After various attempts to revive the Trotskyist Group, Voix Ouvrière was founded in 1956 by Robert Barcia, better known as Hardy and the group's preminent leader, and by Pierre Bois , a leading militant in the Renault plant. It would seem that some effort was made to involve Barta but disputes between him, Hardy and Bois prevented this from happening.
VO established itself through the 1960s by producing a series of factory bulletins on a regular, usually weekly, basis which were mass distributed. This activity could be dangerous as this was still a period when the Communist Party of France (PCF) retained its hegemonic position within the workers movement in France and they would at times make eforts to physically prevent the distribution by VO of its bulletins. In part this explains the continued use of a level of semi-clandestine operation within VO and in LO even today.
After being banned due to its support for the revolt of 1968, the group became Lutte Ouvrière.
While denouncing the undemocratic Communist regimes of the former Eastern Bloc, Lutte Ouvrière advocates the replacement of the current political and economic regime of France (and the World) through a Communist revolution. Nevertheless, it still fields candidates in political elections. Its main goal is public ownership of the means of production through the expropriation of the capitalist corporations.
For long, the internal organizations 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 code names. Such measures of secrecy were justified by the possibility that the party may have to go into hiding, should there be opportunities for a Communist revolution. For the same reason, marriages and children were discouraged. Lutte Ouvrière was thus often cricitized as being sectarian or akin to a cult.
In part this strict disciplinary attitude has enabled LO to be a very stable organisation in contrast to the instability that 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 rather old fashioned. However this rigidity has been breached a few times most notably in the early 1970s when a group left influenced by a various ideas to form the short lived Union Ouvriere grouping. A year later another smaller group left expecting to join UO, which had dissolved in the meantime, and formed the group Combat Communiste. This in turn dissolved although some of its supporters later formed the Socialisme International grouping.
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. Meanwhile a minority tendency continues to exist within LO and appears publicly, although its supporters are segregated in their own cells.
An ongoing issue is the possibility and conditions of an electoral alliance with fellow Trotskyist party the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire.
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