Communism and the French Left

Communism and the French Left

Communism and the French Left

Communism and the French Left

Excerpt

Starting as a study of the factors behind the continued and puzzling strength of the Communist Party in France, this book ended as an essay on the crisis of French democracy.

This is not surprising, since the success of Communism is both the symptom and the cause of this crisis. If French society has presented a fertile ground for the spread of Communism, it is equally true that a strong disloyal opposition has created conditions that have ensured a permanent crisis and hence the continued success of Communism. For democracy has only a limited tolerance for dissidence.

The problem of consensus — "ce conformisme bienfaisant," which every democratic system needs — and "dissensus" furnished the basic concept for relevant comparisons with other Western societies and for the construction of a framework in which to study the various aspects of the French crisis. In the first place, it became clear that a relationship exists between a strong extreme Left and a strong authoritarian movement at the extreme Right. The latter demands order, authority, unity, even unanimity, in answer to the painful lack of political consensus that it in fact fosters. The process of polarization has fed two powerful and disloyal oppositions. In the second place, there is a definite relationship between the presence of two strong extremes — representing as much as one half of the electorate — and the inability of the parliamentary system to function effectively. In the Fourth Republic, as in the Third before it, the government had to rest on a heterogeneous and shifting coalition of the Center that lacked both durability and authority. It was at the mercy of aggressive pressure groups and of the frequent dissidence in the ranks of the fickle majority. To maintain itself in power, it had to reach the lowest possible common denominator of agreement — which spelled inaction. The absence of a loyal opposition, ready to step in, resulted in a lack of incentive for action and in irresponsibility, yet fully justified . . .

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