MAINTENANCE. Legislative: would a union of the left really be “historic”?

The left-wing forces, led by the Insoumis, hope to sign a vast alliance in view of the legislative elections then that we celebrate this May 3 the 86th anniversary of the victory of the Popular Front in the legislative elections of 1936. Discussions continue with the Socialist Party (PS)but an agreement has already been reached overnight from Sunday to Monday with environmentalists and this Tuesday, May 3 with the Communists.

Would an enlarged union be “historic”? What drives an alliance? What did the previous ones stumble on? The lights of the historian, specialist of the left, Gilles Candarpresident of the Society for Jauresian Studies, author of “Why the left? From the commune to the present day”, at the PUF.

Would a union of left forces for the next legislative elections be historic?

It’s been a long time since there has been an agreement from all the forces of the left. This would have something new and important in French political life. But everything will depend on what happens next. This can remain an epiphenomenon if the results in the legislative elections are lower than expected. Or if certain parties are disavowed by their militants or their voters. We will see more clearly in June.

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The last agreement of this type dates back to 1997…

It is the Plural Left, which decides a bit in a hurry, and will last until 2002. It brings together ecologists, communists, radicals and is driven by the Socialist Party. It is then dominant in political life and then covers a wide spectrum: there we find Jean-Luc Melenchon (who will become Minister Delegate for Higher Education under Jospin), but also Florence Parly or Jean-Yves Le Drian etc. Personalities who have now left the PS, or joined Macronie.

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What is the main engine of a union?

It is the fear of obliteration, of defeat. We still see it today. This is true, on the one hand, for socialists, ecologists and communists. On the other hand, the Insoumis are triumphant on the left, but they once again fail to qualify for the second round and there is a risk that they will be reduced to a handful of deputies in the Assembly. They need socialists and ecologists.

For each and for all, there is the risk of being marginalized from political life. The defensive side has always played a very big role in the unions of the left: this is true during the Cartel des gauches (1924), the Popular Front (1936), or the Common Program (1972)…

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This alliance today with parties that have real ideological differences (we see it on Europe or international issues) can it really work?

The essence of an agreement is to organize disagreements. “Politics is the art of the possible” said Gambetta, not that of the absolute. The idea is to see if it is possible to agree on a certain number of common objectives. Then, everyone keeps their share of truth and hopes to make their ideas prosper and advance. Moreover, signing an agreement for a certain period does not mean that we stay together until the consummation of centuries. There may be divorces. In the past, despite the differences, the parties managed to govern together and these unions were rather successful, with social advances that endure.

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What are the most disagreements about?

Historically, the most serious concern foreign policy: wars, alliances, problems of decolonization too. This is still the case today. Except that the situation is different: we are no longer in the context of a presidential election but of legislative elections. Socialists or environmentalists may think – without saying it out loud – that President Macron-elect and the rest of the opposition will help them prevent Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the Insoumis from going too far in questioning the treaties. Europeans or the principles of foreign policy. Many voters can also say to themselves: “a Mélenchon Prime Minister commits us less than a Mélenchon President of the Republic” and try the experiment.

Within the Socialist Party today, an internal rebellion opposes this union, fearing the end of the party. Is it a hazard?

Yes, there is. Other parties, before, have already withered away. The Socialist Party, with its very poor score in the presidential election, and now that the ecologists – its former allies – have signed an agreement with the Insoumis, could find themselves isolated. The management is really in an uncomfortable situation, with these internal disagreements and the difficulty of continuing to exist in this alliance. There may be a split.

Should the squeaky “old guard” be listened to?

For the first secretary of the PS, Olivier Faure, the danger comes more from the great elected Socialists than from former President Hollande or Stéphane Le Foll, who has been grumbling for a long time against everything that is done in the PS. What would be dramatic for the Socialists would be for the mayors of Nantes, Rennes, Lille, Marseille to express their disagreement with regard to this union. But it is also possible that they will assert their experience at the head of large cities, departments, regions, and the PS government culture and say to their partners: “You need us”.

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Can the Rogue hear it?

The Rogue can understand these arguments if they want to win. But they can also be tempted to crush the socialists. If they only make an alliance with environmentalists, they risk not establishing themselves as a great alternative force on the left of Macronia. However, beyond 2022, the presidential election of 2027 is already being played out.

Love him or dislike him, if François Mitterrand has succeeded so well, it is because he knew how to spare his partners internally and externally. He appointed Communist ministers in 1981 and associated them as long as he could, when he could have done without them. He appointed Pierre Mauroy (1981-1984) then Michel Rocard (1988-1991) as Prime Minister although they had strongly contested him before. Jean-Luc Mélenchon made a good score in the presidential election. But he may also have learned from Mitterrand that you have to know how to spare your possible allies to really win. Going from 4th place (from 2012 to 2017), to 3rd (in 2022) to… better, in order to make history.

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