Socialism of a Different Kind: Reshaping the Left in France

Socialism of a Different Kind: Reshaping the Left in France

Socialism of a Different Kind: Reshaping the Left in France

Socialism of a Different Kind: Reshaping the Left in France

Synopsis

"In an interesting and well-written book, Brown traces the evolution of the French Socialist and Communist parties from the signing of the Common Program in 1972 to their accession to power in 1981. The crucial decade of the 1970s saw the reshaping of the Left within this unlikely and rather uneasy alliance through the concept of 'autogestion.' Brown's analysis not only gives a clear understanding of the importance of that alliance and its underlying contradictions, but also places this phase of French politics in the context of its past (notably the events of May 1968) and gives insight into its future possibilities. A timely and enjoyable work." Orbis

Excerpt

This book is a logical continuation of my previous study of the revolutionary Left in France and of the explosion of discontent in May 1968 -- Protest in Paris: Anatomy of a Revolt (Morristown, N.J.: General Learning Press, 1974). I concluded then that the anarcho-surrealists and dissident Communists who spearheaded the revolt could not aspire to power; their significance rather was in pointing to an underlying malaise in modern society. I was therefore led from the revolutionary Left to the only Left that has a chance of assuming responsibility for governance -- in France, the Socialist and Communist parties.

When I began research during the summer of 1976, many of my French friends and colleagues were excited over the prospect that the wound inflicted upon the Left by Lenin's "twenty-one conditions" might at last, after more than a half-century, be healed. The paper I contributed to a symposium at the City University Graduate School in November 1976, later published in Eurocommunism and Eurosocialism: The Left Confronts Modernity (New York: Cyrco Press, 1978), reflects my skepticism at the time concerning the possibility of a historic reconciliation of social democracy and communism.

I returned to France in the fall of 1979 to resume my work on the Left and found a completely different political climate. The Common Program had collapsed, the Socialist and Communist parties had broken their alliance and gone down to separate defeat in the legislative elections of 1978, and the reelection of Giscard d'Estaing seemed to be a certainty. The French Left was once again in disarray. Nonetheless, I believed it was necessary to analyze in depth the Common Program experience for at least three reasons: (1) The failure of the Common Program was as important as the fact that it had been negotiated in the first place. The limits of future collaboration between Socialists and Communists had been clearly traced. (2) The combined vote of the Left remained close to a popular majority. Given the narrow margin separating Left and Right (less than I percent of the vote in the presidential election of 1974), a victory for the Left in the future could not be ruled out. Therefore, a close watch on the parties of the Left was still warranted, despite their apparently low fortunes of the moment. Most important, (3) the Socialist and Communist parties both . . .

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