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New Left Review I/206, July-August 1994


Gavin Bowd

‘C’est la lutte initiale’: Steps in the Realignment of the French Left

In the last two years, a string of elections and the Maastricht referendum have confirmed the rapid realignment of forces on the French Left. The Socialist Party has been brutally expelled from government, at the end of a decade that saw it tarnished and compromised by office and lose tenets and landmarks of its identity. The Communist Party has alternated unhappily between stagnation and decline. The 1980s put an end to the pcfps bipolarity that made the Programme Commun possible. The Euro-elections of June 1994 show a further development: the end of Socialist Party dominance on the Left. The Left has broken up along various fault-lines: the question of the Nation pits neo-Jacobins against Euro-federalists; the social question splits political ecology; while the rate of reform in French Communism adds to the number of groupuscules inhabiting the ‘alternative Left’. The low credit of the political class in general has been favourable to the emergence of a left-wing demagogue, Bernard Tapie. The French Left is a place for convergences and confrontations as it seeks to define a popular alternative to the state of things. Voices call for ‘big bangs’ and new parties, without necessarily entering into dialogue, and it is far from clear if, during this complex process, a way will be found to unite the republican constituency for the decisive presidential election of 1995. And there is a real danger that, in contrast, the Right will find some way of uniting its forces.

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