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POLI 212 - MARCH 28.docx

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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 212
Hudson Meadwell

MARCH 28, 2012:  France: a pattern of political modernization when French politicians are trying to leave the past behind and more forward from 1945 in the midst of political and economic instability.  France’s modernizing coalition is a coalition between business and the state. From 1945, into the early 5th republic in particular, you see an increasing reliance on the political executive, and the legislature becomes less important, and you see an increasing reliance on unelected state bureaucrats.  May-June 1968 begins the realignment in French politics. This is an episode that marks the apex of organized political resistance to the political regime within the left. It is a high point of the political important of the French communist point, and from now on they are marginalized on the left. The socialist party emerges as the main left party. There were coordination between communists and socialists going into May-June 1968, but it began to fall apart in the 1980s and what emerges is a modernized socialist party, which dominates the West.  It suggests that the communist party had deep roots in French society and the French economy.  May-June 1968 is the most significant form of extra-parliamentary opposition in French politics. It is organized more or less in the streets, and is outside the normal institutions and channels of political debates.  May-June 1968 was a challenge from the left as a response to the exclusion of labour in the management of the economy. It is also a challenge to centralized planning of the market- “last class indicative planning.” It is led by communist trade unions and the economic issues that sparked it were the government imposing wage restraint on workers, and it tried to attack the trade unions in those institutions that provide access to the social security system.  Mobilization of students (in particular in University campuses) was very important. Central planning included the creation of universities to string individuals into the recreation of the economy.  The result is a series of strikes and work stoppages, and the occupation of factories by workers. There are also widespread student strikes and university occupations. This morphs into a general strike, and half of the workers in France go on strike, and the economy grinds to a halt. This has many consequences: it does produce concession from the government in terms of wages and wage raises. The state concedes some concessions to trade unions. It delegitimizes the presence of DeGaulle in French politics (to which he returned after the transition to the 5 th republic). He is blamed for the ways in which modernization in the 5 republic is state led and concentrated in the office of the presidency.  These events encourage coordination of the left between socialist and communists, th both of which had been excluded from power in the 5 republic. Until 1968, the worked out informal kind of arrangements (like one party doesn’t put up a candidate so the other has a better chance of winning). After 1968, their cooperation because much more formal. In this period, the socialist party begins to modernize their structures and institutions.  What emerges is the “union of the left.” This signals the willingness of these two parties to put forward a common program. They put forward a program from both parties joint that they said they would implement in elected. This is a signal that the French communist party is willing to work under the institutions of the fifth republic. The communist party begins to distance itself from connections with the Soviet Union and moves towards Euro-Communism to show that it wasn’t an instrument of soviet foreign policy.  In 1981, the union of the left is successful, and there is a government of the left for the first time in the 5 republic. It controlled the presidency and dominates the legislature. They begin to implement measures from their program. By 1984, the PCF has left the coalition government, which signals that the socialist party has emerged as the dominant party on the left, and it has done so because while in government between 1981-1984, the socialist party backed away from the commitments in the common program when it became clear that there would be an economic crisis with political consequences if they implemented them. This time period is known as “the U-turn.” From this point on the PCF is marginalized.  France is a strong unitary state, but as a consequence of 1968 there is some de- concentration of power in France. It is de-concentration rather than devolution of power. There is a change in administration, not in politics.  One important feature of the politics of the left: the phenomena of the national front around the figure of Le Pen. Jean Le Pen was involved in French politics in the 4 th republic for what was know as a flash party, based in the small middle class. It had a short shelf life. He was a part of
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