Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Le Programme Commun: A Model for the Right?

If you're of a certain age, you will remember le Programme Commun--depending on your orientation, either the master stroke that enabled the Left finally to break the Gaullist monopoly on power in the Fifth Republic or the perfidious alliance of "Socialo-Communists" that brought the Cold War enemy into the fortress of power (eventually annihilating that enemy in a reversal of the Trojan horse metaphor). Now there is a book about "l'union sans unité."

Its most avid readers may well be on the Right, however, because the opportunities for a "political recomposition" of the sort that Mitterrand effected in the 1970s now lie on the other side of the political spectrum. Now it is the Front National rather than the Communist Party that lies outside "the republican consensus," and it is the "republican Right," first under Sarkozy and now even more nakedly under its new leader Jean-François Copé, that would like to reinforce itself by bringing in (and to heel) its once-taboo nemesis.

There is a difference, however. The PCF in the 70s was an aging party that was not replenishing its ranks with new young blood. The FN is energetically--and apparently successfully--recruiting young people, as the surprisingly good performance of a 23-yr-old candidate in Villeneuve-sur-Lot shows. The dynamism of the FN among young people aged 20-40 has to be a concern for the UMP. Demographics turned the Common Program into an instrument for defanging the PCF, but demographics may work in the opposite direction if the UMP attempts to make common cause with the FN.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The notion of the PCF as an ageing party was not apparent in the early 1970s. There are significant differences between the PS-PCF in the '70s and the UMP-FN today, notably that the left was shut out of national power due to the PCF being the left's nº1 party and since 1945. Mitterrand after Epinay determined that the PS had no other route to national power except by entering into an alliance with the PCF (and at a moment of thaw in the Cold War) and picking off its voters while he was it, enabling the PS to take over as nº1 - which was accomplished in the 1978 legislative elections -, thereby enabling the victory of 1981.

The FN today is in an analogous situation to the PS of the '70s, but the UMP is not the PCF of that decade. The UMP does not, in fact, need an electoral alliance with the FN to return to power and in view of Marine LP's ambitions - and the fact that the FN can only grow by poaching the UMP's voters - it would be strategically crazy of the UMP to do a right-wing 'programme commun' with the Frontistes. This has always been perfectly understood by the état-major of the UMP (and ex-RPR), which why it's not going to happen, not at the national level in any case.

Arun

bernard said...

Arun is right. Mitterrand in the sixties was a man without a party, essentially, and the left was dominated by the communist party, who did not hold Mitterrand in any esteem and had no viable candidate in a national election (G.Marchais was too vulnerable: a worker who got himself drafted to work in a factory vital to the nazi war effort (Messerschmidt), then turned out to be the personal bodyguard of Thorez, the communist party's boss immediately upon his return in 1945, I leave it to reader's imagination what actual role he actually did play during the war. Heroic, I suspect, but not conducive to national election level in a Western democracy).

So Mitterrand needed a party and mass organisation at the most basic level and the PCF needed someone actually electable for the left. Thus Epinay and the Programme Commun. Naturally, both partners expected to come out on top for their own reasons and, in the end, Mitterrand's reasons were better (and not just demography).

Today the UMP and FN situations are quite different. To make it short, I would argue that there is a large intersect of the two parties, but that this intersect does not constitute a majority and that the non-intersect parts are radically opposed to such a strategy. That is why Mr Copé is not, in my view, an astute politician of any kind.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely. A UMP-FN electoral alliance would lead to the defection of a significant number of UMP voters and/or a split in the UMP, with the chiraquien canal historique forming its own party. A lot of Frontistes would also be opposed and the UDI would refuse to participate in any such electoral deal - not to mention coalition govt - with the the FN. So it's just not going to happen.

Arun

Anonymous said...

I think a better analogy might be to the Left in the 1930s. The PC was the dynamic party relative to the SFIO and Radicals. What the PC opted for at the time of the Front Populaire -- electoral agreements and support of the government from the outside -- seems to me a more plausible scenario for the Right and the FN now.

Anonymous said...

But the Front Populaire was still an electoral alliance. The problem for the FN today is the 'mode de scrutin uninominal', which will continue to severely penalize it in elections to come. And the UMP has no interest in helping the FN on this score. Even if a dose of PR is introduced for the next legislative elections, this will still only yield the FN a handful of seats in the Assemblée Nationale. So long as the UMP (with the UDI) can win an outright majority in the A.N., it will not consider a deal with the FN.

Arun