Alain Ah-Vee and Rajni Lallah represented LALIT at the immense annual “La Fête” organized every year since 1971 by Lutte Ouvrière in a forest just outside Paris on 3, 4 and 5 June. LALIT had a stand in the section called “Cité Politique” between, by chance, the stands of the British movement Alliance for Workers Liberty and Centre d’Etudes et de Recherche sur les Mouvements Trotkyste et Revolutionnaires (CERMTRI). So when one of our two members would look after the stand, the other was free to attend talks, visit other stands, listen to mini-concerts, look through telescopes, eat a meal at a stand, watch a film.
“We would have needed more members there if we wanted to get to see and report on everything!” Rajni says.
“Lutte Ouvrière has managed the imaginative task of building up over time an annual peoples’ festival – culture, science, arts, history – as an intrinsic part of a working class struggle festival.” Alain Ah Vee says in his report-back. He says that at the same time they were having to run their electoral campaign for their 553 candidates standing for the National Assembly elections.
Alain Ah Vee adds that they have accomplished in La Fête, the bringing together in one place the villagers from Presles which is the village near the forest, all the Lutte Ouvrière party members and supporters who meet up from all the regions of France, and no less than 15 different left international political currents. “Villagers come in free,” Alain says, “and some sell their wares,” adding to the spirit of it being a popular festival. “One Lutte Ouvrière member we know, Eric, prepares the exact kind of ice-cream that his region is famous for,” Rajni adds.
“Lutte Ouvrière members come and stay at the Forest for three week-ends beforehand, and set up the marquis, big and small, and prepare the places to house the Forums and public lectures, lectures by the way that include top scientists, for example, on their special subject,” Alain says. “There are food stalls dotted all over the immense space, and massive bookstores, too. And enough toilets, again all over the huge grounds of the old castle,” Rajni adds. “And then they have to come for two weekends afterwards, to get the grounds back to their usual state,” she adds.
“This aspect of Lutte Ouvrière, known more for its emphasis on work-site organization, work-site leaflets, and working class struggles, is also an important part of their work, which they might under-estimate, themselves,” Rajni Lallah said.
“From 10 in the morning till 8 at night, for three whole days each year,” Alain Ah-Vee said, “they hold this big political gathering, in the atmosphere of a calm, joyful fancy fair. Babies and young children are looked after in a creche, and there are also outdoor sports, like climbing, and slides up in the trees, as well as darts, and candy floss, clowns and so on.”
“More seriously, blacksmiths,” Rajni Lallah said, had set up a real forge, in which they heated up rock with iron ore in it, smelted the ore down, and children could take turns in beating it with a hammer.”
“Later on there is dancing to music, as well,” she said. “The Nathalie Arthaud political meetings, on the Sunday and Monday, were a highpoint, with some 3,000 people attending, much like a political meeting in Mauritius.” She was the Lutte Ouvrière presidential candidate. “Sunday was on French politics, down to earth and inspiring. Monday was on international topics, which Alain and Rajni thought she perhaps mastered less confidently.
“We met and chatted to interesting people, there”, both said, giving details, “and tried to learn as much as possible about how the Lutte Ouvrière functions as a party, so we can bring home hints and ideas.” They distributed leaflets with LO members and also went to neighbourhood meetings in the context of the National Assembly election campaign.
After the report, one member said, “After listening to that report, I feel as though I was there in person!”
Written up by Lindsey Collen