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New Left Review I/146, July-August 1984

Diana Johnstone

How the French Left Learned to Love the Bomb

The election of a Socialist, François Mitterrand, as President of the French Republic on 10 May 1981 aroused hopes in a European left that by the end of the seventies had to console itself as best it could. Mitterrand himself was, indeed, a Fourth Republic war-horse, a patriotic politician of the French radical republican stamp, who had been Interior Minister at the start of the war in Algeria. However, the French Socialist Party (ps), reorganized under Mitterrand’s leadership in 1971, seemed a relatively fresh, bright and bold newcomer. Often critical of the compromises of ‘social democracy’, willing to govern in coalition with a particularly uningratiating Communist Party, the ps enjoyed an image to the left of its fellow-members of the Socialist International. Italian Communists hoped that the French Socialists could provide the bridge between themselves and the Social Democrats of Germany and northern Europe in the construction of a coordinated ‘Euroleft’. After its landslide in the legislative elections following Mitterrand’s victory over Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the French Socialist Party held an absolute majority in the National Assembly as well as a seven-year mandate to control the strongest state apparatus in the Western world, in the European nation traditionally most jealous of its independence from the ‘Superpowers’. All this seemed certain to favour a coordinated European resistance to the Reagan administration’s efforts to force Europe into line with its own reactionary policies in fiscal priorities, rearmament and the Third World.

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Diana Johnstone, ‘How the French Left Learned to Love the Bomb’, NLR I/146: £3

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