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Why has the Parti Socialiste come to dominate the French Left?

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Ian Bishop Why has the Parti Socialiste come to dominate the French Left? The left wing in France since 1945 has never been a unified political force. Instead, it has been a divided and pluralistic political community, accommodating both Communists who take on the mantle of the Jacobin left, and far more liberal groups such as the Green Party. With such diversity within an ideological wing, it has been natural for a strong party representing a particular vein of left wing thought to dominate the bloc. The traditional leader of French left-wing thought in the twentieth century was the Communist party, yet within just twelve years of the formation of the Parti Socialiste in 1969, these inheritors of the Jacobin legacy had been all but sidelined in French government, replaced by the new Socialist party. In this short time, the Parti Socialiste established itself as the dominant political party in the French left, a role that it maintains to this day. Any explanation of its predominance must examine the causes of the meteoric rise of the Parti Socialiste and also the reasons for the sudden apparent collapse of Communism as the main party of the French left, for the reversal in the respective party political roles of the two groups is inextricably linked in any explanation of Socialist Party dominance. ...read more.


On this basis the PS set about eradicating Marxism as an influence on its policy. This was an important step that set the party apart from the Communists, who still cling to Marxist views. By the 1980s it had become clear that Marxism had lost its intellectual appeal, and Mitterand was wise to clearly separate the PS from associations with Marxist thought. The Parti Socialiste benefited from exterior social shifts that also served to damage the Communist Party. During the 1970s and 1980s the working class, the traditional bedrock of Communist Party support, declined in size significantly. This matched a general trend in Western society, but in France the shift was magnified by the fact that not only did the actual numbers of working class voters decline, but the number of people who wished to think of themselves as working class fell. The growing stigma attached to being working class, and the links between the working class and the Communist party meant that fewer members of the lower social groups were now prepared to automatically give their vote to the Communists. Many preferred to give their vote to the less class-specific Parti Socialiste, as it still represented left-wing values but did not carry the attached associations of working class support that the Communist party did. ...read more.


The Parti Socialiste have managed to retain their supremacy in the left-wing bloc in part through their ability to succeed electoral. This is an important factor in their ability to unite the left behind them on many matters. The relatively new Green Party has been accommodated and subsequently contained to a large extent by the Parti Socialiste due to its ability to offer the Greens a role in government. Equally, there is now much more co-operation between the Communist Party and the Parti Socialiste based on much the same understanding as with the Greens. Whether this situation is particularly stable, since it by definition rests upon electoral success, is unclear, and in an age when cohabitation is becoming ever more common, it is difficult to see whether such an alliance can hold. Equally, the role of the Parti Socialiste as the dominant party of the left is largely dependent on its ability to best utilise the constitutional structure of the Fifth Republic, and its political fortunes are inextricably linked with its electoral success. However, it seems likely that the Parti Socialiste will remain that dominant political party of the left wing for the foreseeable future, as it has not only made good use of the institutional framework of the Fifth Republic, but also has pragmatic flexibility as one of its core values, giving it the versatility required to adapt to constantly changing political circumstances. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 1 ...read more.

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