French Socialist Party: Wikis

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Coordinates: 48°51′35.35″N 2°19′22.44″E / 48.8598194°N 2.3229°E / 48.8598194; 2.3229

Socialist Party
Parti socialiste
Leader Martine Aubry[1]
Founded 1969 (PS)
Headquarters 10, rue de Solférino
75333 Paris Cedex 07
Ideology Social democracy,
Democratic socialism
International affiliation Socialist International
European affiliation Party of European Socialists
European Parliament Group Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Official colours Red, Pink
Seats in the National Assembly
Seats in the Senate
Seats in the European Parliament
Website
www.parti-socialiste.fr
Politics of France
Political parties
Elections
Constitution of France
Parliament; Government; President

The Socialist Party (Parti socialiste, PS) is the largest left-wing political party in France. It replaced the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) in 1969.

A social democratic and democratic socialist party[2], PS first won power in 1981, when its candidate François Mitterrand was elected president of the Fifth Republic. Under Mitterrand, the party achieved a governing majority in the National Assembly from 1981 to 1986 and again from 1988 to 1993. PS leader Lionel Jospin lost his bid to succeed Mitterrand as president in the 1995 presidential election against Gaullist leader Jacques Chirac but became prime minister in a cohabitation government after the 1997 parliamentary elections, a position he held until 2002, when he was again defeated in presidential elections. In 2007, the party's candidate for the presidential election, Ségolène Royal, was defeated by Nicolas Sarkozy.

Contents

History

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French socialism until 1969

After the failure of the Paris commune (1871), power of the French socialist movement was greatly reduced. Its leaders were killed or exiled. France's first socialist party, the Federation of the Socialist Workers of France (Fédération des travailleurs socialistes de France or FTSF), was founded in 1879. It was characterised as "possibilist" because it promoted gradual reforms. Two parties split off from it: in 1882, the French Workers' Party (Parti ouvrier français or POF) of Jules Guesde and Paul Lafargue (the son-in-law of Karl Marx), then in 1890 the Revolutionary Socialist Workers' Party (Parti ouvrier socialiste révolutionnaire or POSR) of Jean Allemane. At the same time, the heirs of Louis Auguste Blanqui, a symbol of the French revolutionary tradition, created the Central Revolutionary Committee (Comité révolutionnaire central or CRC) led by Edouard Vaillant. There were also some declared socialist deputies such as Alexandre Millerand and Jean Jaurès who did not belong to any party.

In 1899, the participation of Millerand in Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau's cabinet caused a debate about socialist participation in a "bourgeois government". Three years later, Jaurès, Allemane and the possibilists founded the possibilist French Socialist Party, which supported participation in government, while Guesde and Vaillant formed the Socialist Party of France, which opposed such cooperation. In 1905, during the Globe Congress, the two groups merged in the French Section of the Workers International (Section française de l'Internationale ouvrière or SFIO). Leader of the parliamentary group and director of the party paper L'Humanité, Jaurès was its most influential figure.

The party was hemmed in between the middle class liberals of the Radical Party and the revolutionary syndicalists who dominated the trade unions. Furthemore, the goal to rally all the Socialists in one single party was partially reached: some elects refused to join the SFIO and crated the Republican-Socialist Party (Parti républicain-socialiste or PRS), favourable to the government participation. Together with the Radicals, who wished to install laicism, the SFIO was a component of the "Block of Lefts" (Bloc des gauches) without to sit in the government. In 1906, the General Confederation of Labour trade-unions (Confédération général du travail or CGT) claimed its independence from all political parties.

The French socialists were strongly anti-war, but following the assassination of Jaurès in 1914 they were unable to resist the wave of militarism which followed the outbreak of World War I. They suffered a severe split over participation in the wartime government of national unity. In 1919 the anti-war socialists were heavily defeated in elections. In 1920, during the Tours Congress, the majority and left wing of the party broke away and formed the French Section of the Communist International (Section française de l'Internationale Communiste or SFIC) to join the Third International founded by Vladimir Lenin. The right wing, led by Léon Blum, kept the "old house" and remained in the SFIO.

In 1924 and in 1932, the Socialists joined with the Radicals in the Coalitions of the Left (Cartels des Gauches), but refused to join the non-Socialist governments led by the Radicals Edouard Herriot and Edouard Daladier. These governments failed because the Socialists and the Radicals could not agree on economic policy, and also because the Communists, following the policy laid down by the Soviet Union, refused to support "bourgeois" governments. The question of the possibility of a governmment participation with Radicals caused the split of "neosocialists" at the beginning of the 1930s. They merged with the Republican-Socialist Party (PRS) in the Socialist Republican Union (Union socialiste républicaine or USR).

In 1934, the Communists changed their line, and the four left-wing parties came together in the Popular Front, which won the 1936 elections and brought Blum to power as France's first SFIO Prime Minister. Indeed, for the first time in its history, the SFIO obtained more votes and seats than the Radical Party and it formed the central axis of a left-wing parliamentary majority. Within a year, however, his government collapsed over economic policy and also over the issue of the Spanish Civil War. The fall of the Popular Front caused a new split from the SFIO, with the departure of the left-wing of the party, led by Marceau Pivert, to the Workers and Peasants' Socialist Party (Parti socialiste ouvrier et paysan or PSOP). The demoralised left fell apart and was unable to resist the collapse of the French republic after the military defeat of 1940.

After the liberation of France in 1944, the SFIO re-emerged in a coalition with a powerful Communist Party (PCF), which became the largest left-wing party, and the Christian Democratic Popular Republican Movement (MRP). This alliance installed the main elements of the French welfare state and the Fourth Republic, but it did not survive the Cold War. In May 1947, the Socialist Prime Minister Paul Ramadier dismissed the Communist ministers. Blum proposed the construction of a Third Force with the centre-left and the centre-right, against the Gaullists and the Communists. However, his candidate to lead of the SFIO, Daniel Mayer, was defeated by Guy Mollet.

Mollet was supported by the left wing of the party. Paradoxically, he spoke a Marxist language without questioning the alliance with the centre and the centre-right. His leadership was shaken when the party divided in 1954 about the European Defence Community (the half of the SFIO parliamentary group voted "no", against the instructions of the party lead, participating to the failure of the project). But later, Mollet got involved the SFIO in the build of a centre-left coalition, the Republican Front, which won a plurality in the 1956 elections. Consequently, he was Prime Minister at the head of a minority government. But the party was in decline, as were the Radicals, and the left never came close to forming a united front. Indeed, this led Mollet to assert, "the Communist Party is not on the left, but in the East". The repressive policy of Mollet in the Algerian War and his support for Charles de Gaulle's come-back in 1958 (the party lead called to vote "yes" in referendum on Fifth Republic's constitution) caused a split and the foundation of the dissident Unified Socialist Party (Parti socialiste unifié or PSU). The SFIO returned to opposition in 1959. Discredited by its fluctuating policy during the Fourth Republic, it reached its lowest ebb in the 1960s.

Both because of its opposition to the principle of presidential election by universal suffrage and because De Gaulle's re-election appeared inevitable, the SFIO did not nominate a candidate for the 1965 election. Consequently, it supported the candidacy of François Mitterrand, a former minister of the Fourth Republic who had been a conservative, then a leftist independent. He was resolutely anti-Gaullist. Supported by all the left-wing parties, he obtained a good result and faced De Gaulle in an unexpected second ballot, becoming the leader of the non-Communist left.

In order to exist between the Communist Party, leading the left, and the Gaullist Party, leading the country, the SFIO, Radicals, and left-wing republican groups created the Federation of the Democratic and Socialist Left under Mitterrand's leadership. But unable to benefit from the May 1968 events, it imploded after its disastrous defeat at the June 1968 legislative elections. One year later, the SFIO candidate Gaston Defferre was eliminated in the first round of the 1969 presidential election, with only 5% of votes.

The foundation of the PS and the "Union of the Left" (1969-1981)

In 1969, during the Alfortville Congress, the SFIO was replaced by the Socialist Party (Parti socialiste or PS). It was joined by pro-Pierre Mendès-France clubs (Union of Clubs for the Renewal of the Left led by Alain Savary) and left-wing republican groups (Union of Socialist Groups and Clubs of Jean Poperen). During the Issy-les-Moulineaux Congress, Alain Savary was elected First Secretary with the support of his predecessor Guy Mollet. He proposed an "ideological dialogue" with the Communists.

Two years later, during the Epinay Congress, pro-François Mitterrand clubs (Convention of Republican Institutions), joined the party. Mitterrand defeated the Savary-Mollet duo by proposing an electoral programme with the Communists and took the lead. In 1972, the Common Programme was signed with the PCF and Left Radical Party. During the Socialist International conference, he explained the alliance of left-wing parties is a yearning of French left-wing voters. In this, the goal of his strategy was "to regain 3 million of the 5 million of PCF voters". The left, and notably the Socialist Party, experienced an electoral recovery at the 1973 legislative election. Mitterrand, the candidate of the left-wing alliance, came close to winning the 1974 presidential election. Indeed, he obtained 49.2% of votes in the second round.

At the end of 1974, some PSU members, including leader Michel Rocard, re-joined the PS. They represented the "left-wing Christian" and non-Marxist group. The most conservative members of the PS, they advocated an alignment of French socialism along European Social-Democratic lines, that is, a clear acceptance of the market economy. While the "Union of the Left" triumphed at the 1977 municipal election, the electoral rise of the PS worried the Communist Party. The two parties failed to update the Common Programme and the PCF leader Georges Marchais denounced a "turn towards the Right" of the PS.

In spite of positive polls, the "Union of the Left" lost the 1978 legislative election. For the first time since 1936, the Socialists scored better than the Communists, becoming the main left-wing party, but their defeat caused an internal crisis. Mitterrand's leadership was challenged by Rocard, who wanted to abandon the Common Programme which he considered archaic and unrealistic. Mitterrand felt that the left could not win without the alliance between the Socialists and the Communists. In 1979, Mitterrand won the Metz Congress, then, despite Rocard's popularity, was chosen as PS candidate for the 1981 presidential election.

Mitterrand's presidency and the exercise of power (1981-1995)

In 1981 Mitterrand defeated the incumbent conservative, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, to become the first socialist of the Fifth Republic to be elected President of France by universal suffrage. He dissolved the National Assembly and, for the first time in their history, the French Socialists won an absolute majority of the seats. This "pink surge" took place to the detriment of the right-wing parliamentary parties (Rally for the Republic and Union for French Democracy), and the Communist Party too.

Mitterrand was the last elected national leader in Europe to attempt to carry out a socialist-inspired agenda (the 110 Propositions), furthering the dirigiste trends of the preceding conservative governments. The Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy nationalised the banks, the insurance industry and the defence industries, in accordance with the 1972 Common Program. Workers' wages were increased and working hours reduced to 39, and many other sweeping reforms carried out, but the economic crisis continued. Reforms included the abolition of death penalty, creation of a solidarity tax on wealth (ISF), introduction of proportional representation in legislative elections (which was applied only at the 1986 election), decentralization of the state (1982-83 laws), repeal of price liberalization for books (Lang Law of 1981), etc.

As early as 1982, Mitterrand faced a clear choice between maintaining France's membership in the European Monetary System, and thus the country's commitment to European integration, and pursuing his socialist policies. He chose the former, starting the Socialist Party's acceptance of the market economy. In 1984 Mitterrand and his second Prime Minister, Laurent Fabius, clearly abandoned any further socialist measures. The "Union of the Left" died and the Communist ministers resigned.

The PS lost its majority in the French National Assembly in 1986, forcing Mitterrand to "cohabit" with the conservative government of Jacques Chirac. Nevertheless, Mitterrand was re-elected President in 1988 with a moderate programme entitled "United France". He proposed neither nationalisations nor privatisations. He chose as Prime Minister the most popular and moderate of the Socialist politicians, Michel Rocard. His cabinet included four center-right ministers but it was supported by only a plurality in the National Assembly elected in June 1988.

During his second term, Mitterrand focused on foreign policy and European integration. He convened a referendum for the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. He left domestic policy to his prime ministers: Michel Rocard, Edith Cresson and Pierre Bérégovoy. The party was hit by scandals about its financing and weakened by the struggle between the heirs of "Mitterrandism".

In 1990, during the Rennes Congress, the "Mitterrandist group" split between the supporters of Laurent Fabius and the friends of Lionel Jospin. Furthermore, a part of the left-wing of the party, led by Jean-Pierre Chevènement split off due to his opposition to the Gulf War and the Maastricht Treaty. This section created the Citizens' Movement (Mouvement des citoyens or MDC). Finally, many on the left were disappointed by the results of the Socialist governments. At the 1993 legislative election, the PS did poorly, returning to the levels of the SFIO in the 1960s. The Socialist group of the National Assembly numbered 53 deputies against 260 during the previous term.

Rocard became First Secretary of the party, and was considered the "natural candidate" for the next presidential election. He called for a political "big bang": an agreement with the center and the center-right, but his efforts were in vain. One year later, his party obtained only 14% of votes at the European Parliament election. He was overthrown by a motley coalition led by Henri Emmanuelli, a "Mitterrandist" left-winger. One year before the 1995 presidential election, the PS was affected by a leadership crisis. Rocard lost the most part of his followers after his 1994 electoral crash, Fabius was weakened by the infected blood scandal, the presidentaibility of Emannuelli was questioned. The hope of some party members transferred to Jacques Delors, president of the European Commission and a favorite according to the polls, but he declined due to the radicalization of the party which prevented his centerist strategy. Finally, Lionel Jospin, who had announced his political retirement after the loss of his parliamentary seat in 1993, came back and proposed to "take stock" of Mitterrand's inheritance. For the fisrt time, the party members were called to nominate their candidate for presidency. Benefiting from a good image in the polls, a strong loyalty to the party (as former First Secretary) and governmental experience (as former Education Minister, and the teachers were numerous and influentials in the PS), he deafeted Emmanuelli in the internal ballot. Then, he was defeated by Jacques Chirac in the run-off election but, given the PS crisis, his result was judged good and he returned as First Secretary.

Jospin and the "Plural Left" (1995-2002)

In the legislature, the PS reconstructed a coalition with other left-wing parties: the PCF, the Greens, the Left Radical Party and the MDC. This "Plural Left" (Gauche plurielle) won the 1997 legislative election and Jospin became Prime Minister of the third "cohabitation".

His policy was broadly progressive but had little to do with traditional socialism. The Aubry laws reduced the working time to 35 hours a week. Universal medical insurance was instituted. However, the policy of privatization was pursued.

His coalition dissolved when the MDC leader Jean-Pierre Chevènement resigned from the Cabinet. The Green and Communist allies were weakened by their governmental participation.

The 2002 presidential election was focused on the theme of insecurity. Jospin, again the Socialists' candidate, was eliminated in the first round due to there being too many left-wing candidates who split the vote. He announced his retirement from politics, and the PS called on its supporters to vote for Chirac in order to defeat the National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who had surprisingly advanced to the run-off. Two months later, the "Plural Left" lost the legislative election.

After the 2002 shock

François Hollande, who became First Secretary in 1997, was re-elected in 2003 during the Dijon Congress with the support of the main Socialist personalities, against the left-wing of the party. In the 2004 regional elections, the Socialists had a major comeback. In coalition with the former "Plural Left", they gained power in 20 of the 22 metropolitan regions (all except Alsace and Corsica) and in the four overseas regions. The party benefited from increasing frustration with right-wing parties. However, the Socialist Party has experienced considerable difficulty in formulating an alternative to right-wing policy.

On December 1, 2004, 59% of Socialist Party members approved the proposed European Constitution. However, several well-known members of the Party, including Laurent Fabius, and left-wingers Henri Emmanuelli and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, asked the public for a "no" vote in the 29 May 2005 French referendum on the European Constitution, where the proposed Constitution was rejected. Fabius was ejected from the executive office of the party. The split over the European Constitution, as well as party leaders' competing ambitions to win the presidential nomination in 2007, led the party into considerable disarray.

In November 2005, during the Le Mans Congress, three main groups were present. The majority supported a moderate text and obtained 55%. Fabius's allies ("To Rally the Left") advocated more radical policies and gained 20%. Finally, another faction ("New Socialist Party") claimed it was necessary to renovate the party by proposing left-wing policies and a profound reform of French institutions. It obtained 25% of the vote. Virtually all factions agreed on a common agenda, broadly based on the moderate and pro-European majority's position with some left-wing amendments.

2007 elections and their aftermath

From left to right: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Bertrand Delanoë and Ségolène Royal sitting in the front row at a meeting held on Feb. 6, 2007 by the French Socialist Party at the Carpentier Hall in Paris.

For the 2007 presidential election, many potential candidates appeared: François Hollande, Laurent Fabius (from the left-wing of the party), Dominique Strauss-Kahn (who claimed to represent "social democracy"), Jack Lang, Martine Aubry and Ségolène Royal, who was favoured according to the polls. Some Socialist leaders asked Jospin to return. He declared he was "available" then finally refused.

On November 16, 2006, the members of the Socialist Party chose Ségolène Royal to be their candidate with a majority of 60%. Her challengers, Strauss-Kahn and Fabius, obtained 21% and 19% respectively.

After obtaining 25.87% of the vote in the first round of France's presidential elections, Royal qualified for the second round of voting but lost with 46.94% to Nicolas Sarkozy on May 6, 2007. Immediately after her defeat several party bosses (notably Strauss-Kahn), held Ségolène Royal personally responsible for the unsuccessful campaign. In the same time, some personalities of the right-wing of the party (such as Bernard Kouchner) accepted to join the government nominated by Nicolas Sarkozy.

In the 10 and 17 June 2007 National Assembly elections, the party won 186 out of 577 seats, and about 10 affiliated, gain of 40 seats.

After the winning March 2008 municipal election, the campaign with a view to the Reims Congress started. Some candidates proposed to succeed François Hollande, who had announced he will not compete for another term as First Secretary:

In the pre-vote, the text of Royal arrived the first with 29%, followed by Delanoë (25%), Aubry (25%) and Hamon (19%). A part of the left-wing spilt and founded the Party of the Left. During the Reims Congress, which happened in a very tense climate, the leaders of the factions failed to form a majority. Consequently, the PS members must to elect directly the next First Secretary. Disappointed by his result in the pre-vote, Delanoë renounced and called to vote for Aubry.

On 22 November 2008 it was announced that Aubry had defeated Royal by the narrow margin of 42 votes, and Royal asked for a recount. After checking, Martine Aubry was elected by a margin of 102 votes and 50,03% of votes.

Leadership

First secretaries since 1969:

Factions

Popular support and electoral record

The PS's pattern of support has evolved significantly since its creation and since the days of the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO). However, certain strongholds remain remarkably stable. For example, the PS dominates the rural areas of the south-west of France (notably the Midi-Pyrénées), an old SFIO base. These rural regions voted Socialist as a protest against Parisian centralism, though they were amongst the first republican and laïc regions of France.

While the PS used to be weak in the major wealthy urban centres of the southwest, such as Toulouse, the PS has made gains with middle-class urban voters nationwide and is the largest party in almost all major French cities.

The PS is also strong in areas which used to be strongholds of the French Communist Party: the mining and industrial areas of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the left-wing rural Limousin, and various industrial centres around France.

In recent years, thanks to urbanisation and most notably the decline of religious practice, it has made significant gains in regions such as Bretagne or the Pays-de-la-Loire. For example, Ségolène Royal won the Breton department of Ille-et-Vilaine with 52.39%[3] - while losing nationally - while Mitterrand has won only 38.88% in 1974 (49.19% nationwide).[4] This trend has also been observed in Catholic departments such as Lozère, Cantal and Haute-Loire (though the Socialists were already strong in secular logging areas).

Past support in rural backwoods Provence, such as in the Var (formerly the "Red Var") has practically evaporated with the influx of wealthier residents, Pieds-Noirs and retirees. Ironically, the region is now one of the PS' worst regions.

The PS is also strong in the department of the Nièvre, Mitterrand's electoral base.

Presidential

President of the French Republic
Election year Candidate # of 1st round votes  % of 1st round vote # of 2nd round votes  % of 2nd round vote
1974 François Mitterrand 11,044,373 43.25% 12,971,604 49.19%
1981 François Mitterrand 7,505,960 25.86% 15,708,262 51.76%
1988 François Mitterrand 10,381,332 34.11% 16,704,279 54.02%
1995 Lionel Jospin 7,098,191 23.30% 15,763,027 47.4%
2002 Lionel Jospin 4,610,749 16.18%
2007 Ségolène Royal 9,500,112 25.87% 16,790,440 46.94%

Legislative

French National Assembly
Election year # of 1st round votes  % of 1st round vote # of seats
1973 4,579,888 18.9% 89
1978 6,451,151 22.6% 103
1981 9,077,435 36.0% 266
1986 8,693,939 31.0% 206
1988 8,493,602 34.8% 260
1993 4,476,716 17.6% 53
1997 5,961,612 23.5% 246
2002 6,086,599 24.1% 141
2007 6,436,520 24.73% 186

European Parliament

European Parliament
Election year Number of votes  % of overall vote # of seats won
1979 4,763,026 23.53% 22
1984 4,188,875 20.76% 20
1989 4,286,354 23.61% 22
1994 2,824,173 14.49% 15
1999 3,873,901 21.95% 22
2004 4,960,756 28.90% 31
2009 2,838,160 16.48% 14

See also

References

External links


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