This Sunday in May, perched on the heights of Presles (Val-d’Oise), there is a somewhat old-fashioned atmosphere at the Bellevue estate. Hundreds of stands occupy the 13 hectares of park of the modest castle where the Fête de Lutte Ouvrière (LO) is held each year. Beneath the portraits of Marx, Lenin and even Rosa Luxembourg, barracks displaying the colors of revolutionary communist parties of multiple persuasions and nationalities mingle.

Halfway between the joyful village festival and the austere political congress, the event brings together nearly 30,000 people every Pentecost weekend. On this sunny afternoon, near the railway workers’ refreshment bar, the good mood is interrupted by the crackling voice of an activist escaping from the loudspeakers: “Comrades, the meeting in the presence of Nathalie Arthaud and Jean -Pierre Mercier must start at 3 p.m. Like the ringing of bells, the announcement causes thousands of people to flock to the clearing where the main stage takes place.

At the podium, the two party spokespersons occupy the front of the stage. The leader of the Trotskyist party officially presents her list for the European elections. A surname ends up causing cheers from the crowd: “Arlette Laguiller”. At 84, the six-time presidential candidate occupies the 81st and last position on the “workers’ camp” list. Fifteen years after her retirement from political life, the former bank employee undoubtedly appreciated the indictment against capitalism pronounced by the Arthaud-Mercier tandem.

Under the applause of activists, Nathalie Arthaud compares Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to Joe Biden and his allies – “the side of the same coin” – and denounces the uselessness of the European and French Parliaments – “doormats for big capital” . She calls for a rally “to build the internationalist revolutionary party that the working class sorely lacks.” Asked about the loss of the working-class electorate to the benefit of the nationalist right-wing bloc (53% in the last wave of the daily Ifop-Fiducial poll for Le Figaro, LCI, Sud Radio), Nathalie Arthaud targets the former left-wing “major parties”. : “It is the PS and the PC which have lost their base. The governments of the left have governed exactly like the parties of the right, they have obeyed the wishes of the capitalists while leaving the workers in trouble.

At the end of the meeting, near the stage, Ethan, a young 18-year-old activist, timidly waits for the head of the list. A first-year economics student in Valenciennes, the young man is looking for a job that is “useful” to society and seeking advice from his champion. “You know, as a teacher, they want me to create labor to exploit,” she answers soberly. “Don’t spend your time in macroeconomics textbooks, we have reading advice to offer you,” she continues, referring the student to Karl Marx’s Capital. Impatient to delve into the abundant Trotskyist bibliography, the young man confides that he is seduced by this ideology “which shows that apart from money, we can organize things that go well”.

Unlike Ethan, who is discovering the Fête de Lutte Ouvrière this year, some regulars know every nook and cranny of it. This is the case of Robert, an activist in the Paris region “for almost 50 years”. Behind a tavern, the person evokes with a broad smile the pleasure of meeting “every year with comrades and local residents” during this activist weekend which “is first and foremost a celebration”. “It’s a source of pride to be present at the biggest political gathering of the French far left,” he says. Opposite, behind a barbecue, Anne, an LO member since 2003, goes further: “It’s almost the biggest revolutionary gathering in the world.” The teacher refers to the fifteen nationalities represented among the revolutionary groups, notably from Turkey, Belgium, Great Britain and Ivory Coast.

On site, apart from the catering areas, the public is distributed between games or show areas and in conference-debates. In the middle of the “Political City”, a presentation attracts many curious people. Under a modest tivoli, Anasse Kazib, unofficial leader of “Permanent Revolution” (a young revolutionary political organization born from a split with the NPA) hosts a conference entitled “Trade union repression, criminalization of support for Palestine: combating the authoritarian offensive” . This 37-year-old railway worker is now the subject of an investigation for “apology of terrorism”. In question, one of his posts published on October 7 on X (formerly Twitter) in “solidarity with Palestine”. The trade unionist has since criticized “the bludgeoning of power against trade unionism” referring to the conviction of a CGT official last April after the distribution of a leaflet on the October 7 attack.

However, the Sud-Rail union delegate is delighted with the emergence of a young generation “in the process of arming itself ideologically” around the Palestinian question. “We see in the universities that there are significant mobilizations,” he says happily. The phenomenon comes from the United States, where progressive youth, who enabled the election of Biden, will probably defeat him in the next election.”

Here again, the polls which seem to show a shift of young people towards the nationalist right (44% of 18-24 year olds in our “rolling”) hardly seem to worry him. “I don’t have that feeling, the polls are not ideological but done around the vote,” he says. “What I prefer to remember is that in a survey published in La Croix during the presidential elections, 79% of young people considered the revolution as a good way to make things happen.” If Le Figaro has not found any trace of the study in question, the essay La Fracture (Ed. Les Arènes; 2021), by pollsters Frédéric Dabi and Stewart Chau, indicates that a majority of 18-30 year olds (52 %) considers that only a certain form of violence can make things happen today.

Monday afternoon, as the party draws to a close, a group of activists wonder about the possible outlets for this anger. “Unity is what we need today! A great revolutionary workers’ movement like in Russia,” imagines a young man in his twenties. No doubt without even believing it himself, as the electoral weight of the far-left forces – already intrinsically weak – is systematically fragmented between different candidacies. In the presidential election, as in the European elections: among the 37 lists officially entered into the ballot, at least three are labeled “extreme left”, namely Lutte Ouvrière, NPA-Revolutionaires (resulting from another split in the NPA) and Workers’ Party . Anasse Kazib regrets this disunity: “The elections will not change anything but they could have served as a poll. I think that a common far-left list would have motivated voters and activists.” For her part, Nathalie Arthaud wants to be more philosophical: “Even in the case of union, we are not able to pass the 5%, threshold necessary to have elected officials. Our only goal is to call on workers to raise a revolutionary communist flag.” Too bad if it doesn’t translate into the ballot box.