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
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
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,
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