In the recent 2007 French Presidential election, Segolene Royale, a member of the Socialist Party (PS) lost the election to UMP candidate Nicholas Sarkozy. In the attendant legislative election of the same year, the Socialists are a strong minority in the Assembly, and for the first time during the Fifth Republic the Communist Party of France (PCF) failed to gain more than requisite number of seats to caucus as a unit, and were forced to align in a leftist coalition known as the Democratic and Republican Left.1 The precipitous decline of the role of the PCF in French politics has been manifesting itself for some time…
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An examination of the theoretical and ideological apparatuses that precipitated this political shift along with a presentation of cultural and political events that led to a realignment of political strategies of the two parties will be followed by an inquiry into the organizational and leadership practices and beliefs of the two groups. The subsequent analysis of the ebb and flow of the respective fortunes of the PS and PCF should reveal that the Political Left in France has operated under a "Coalition as Rivalry"2 paradigm to the ultimate benefit of the PS and the seemingly irrecoverable detriment of the PCF.
Forming out of the Section Francaise de I'lnternationale Ouvriere (SFIO) in 1905, the Socialist Party was cobbled together with an uneasy mix of Marxists, members of worker's parties, revolutionaries and reformists.3 The uneasiness of this arrangement eventually led to a splintering of the "feeble" alliance and at the 1920 Congress of Tour, what was to become the PCF was formed.4 The rather hard ideological line of the PCF illustrated by the slogan, "sovietization outrance" is indicative of the affiliation that French Communists had at the time with Soviet Politburo.5 The Socialists and Communists did briefly come together in an unofficial capacity, along with the radicals in a mid-1930's movement known as the Popular Front. That coalition was interrupted by WWII. After WWII, much of the left was united against Gaullism though nevertheless splintered over the issue of Algerian Independence. The start of the Fifth Republic saw perpetuation of the orthodox commitments of the Communist Party in France despite growing dissention among the ranks in the European left. These parties, including ones in Britain, Italy, and Hungary were experiencing a mass exodus of party faithful and a philosophical crisis of faith. The PCF however remained nominally loyal to their Leninist-Stalinist roots, exemplified by their indignation and recrimination of the "Khrushchev Thaw."6 The SFIO, beginning at the end of the Fourth Republic and continuing into the Fifth Republic, struggled to define itself ideologically between centrist factions and the committed PCF, and as such saw a steady decline through the 1950s and 1960s.7 Despite attempts by SFIO to form alliances and create coalitions with the Radicals and remaining non-Communist remnants of the Popular Front, 1969 saw electoral disaster when Gaston Defferre, the newly formed PS candidate for president received less than 5% of the electoral vote.8
The French Left overall suffered losses in the National Assembly throughout the first two post-war decades, representing 60% of the vote in 1945 to just under 40% in 1968.
The primary issue for the Left and specifically for the Communists was motivating its constituents in the economically and politically stable milieu of Gaullist France.10 As one commentator described it,
"What is certain is that the France of 1968 does not seem able to give itself the luxury of a political
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“French Politics and Public Policy Case Study Example | Topics and Well Written Essays - 3000 Words”, n.d. https://studentshare.org/politics/1534349-french-politics-and-public-policy.
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