Between tears, resentments and hopes, the fate of the French Socialist Party (PS) was played out, and therefore, of the French left itself. On Thursday, April 5, the PS National Council adopted by 62% of the votes the agreement with Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Insoumise movement to form, together with the Communist Party and the ecologists, the “New Popular Ecological and Social Union” (Nupes). This structure unites all the lefts except the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) under the leadership of Mélenchon with the aim of proposing an alternative to the presidency of Emmanuel Macron ahead of the legislative elections next June.
The union can be for the Socialist Party or the last nail on its coffin, or its rebirth
The pact has three dimensions: for the left it is a historical fact; for Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the consecration of a long-term strategy and for the Socialist Party of a bet whose meaning is yet to be defined. The union with France Insumisa may be the last nail in the coffin of French socialism or the narrow path of a rebirth after years in which the PS preferred to be an ally of globalized liberalism instead of being the “party of social transformation” and the solidarity dreamed of by its founder, Jean Jaurés, at the beginning of the 20th century.
Emmanuel Macron, an invention of socialism
Perhaps there is no crueler proof of the PS’s inconsistency and course than the two presidential victories of Emmanuel Macron, in 2017 and 2022. The current president is not an invention of the right but of socialism. The narratives of the left sweep out because it suits them to say that the person responsible is their adversary; but it’s not like that. The head of state is a genuine product of socialist betrayals. Macron was economy minister to France’s last socialist president, François Hollande. He emerged in that environment and then rose to power in 2017 with the support of many socialist voters and through an alliance made up of PS leaders.
The New Popular Ecological and Social Union it has a considerable impact on a political configuration where the traditional opposition represented by the two institutional parties of the right and left, the PS and the Republicans, had disappeared to be replaced by the extreme right of Marine Le Pen. This largely explains the absence in the second round of the presidential elections of 2017 and 2022, of the two parties that have led the alternation in the last 50 years.
With Marine Le Pen as a candidate, the extreme right took the place of socialists and republicans
With Marine Le Pen as the candidate, the far right took the place of the Socialists and Republicans. The caricature disunity of the left in the last presidential elections of April 2022, provided an ingredient of additional legitimacy to an extreme right that prospered in the vacuum left by the decline of the traditional parties.
Mélenchon earned a place at the head of the New Union
However, Mélenchon never abandoned his march to the left. He pushed the locomotive from the most radical wing of the left and, in 2022, opted for a new presidential candidacy that left him a few meters from going to the second round, 21.95% compared to 23.15% of Marine Le Pen. That more than 20% of the votes put France Insumisa as the axis around which the future left was going to articulate. Europe Ecology The Greens (EELV) and the Communist Party were the first to adhere to the New Popular Ecological and Social Union, while the PS took a few more days to accept the inevitable: either the union, or the disappearance.
“Voters abandoned us because they think we have nothing more to say,” says Olivier Faure
Its result in the last presidential elections, 1.7%, turned the party into a kind of confidential gathering. In the speech delivered before the National Council by the First Secretary of the PS, Olivier Faure, he recognized the electoral desert in which the PS fell: “The voters abandoned us because they think that we no longer have anything to say, or anything else to transform” .
The “common adventure” with the other lefts is not exempt from oddities. There is, for example, nothing further from socialist philosophy than the concept of the “rupturing left” proposed by Mélenchon. In addition, France Insumisa is moved by an opposition to the criteria of the European Union and the socialists (with the ecologists) are ardent supporters of the current model. However, between nothing and a possibility, the PS resigned itself to the possible and, as far as Europe is concerned, accepted what the pact proposes, that is, “not respecting certain rules” set by the European Union.
One option left
The introduction of an alternative to the current power that is not that of the extreme right is already, in itself, quite an achievement. The poverty of the political offer was such that this initiative comes to fill a wide expectation and to fulfill, at the same time, the desires of the leftist militancy that, for years, survey after survey, has demanded a union. “We are not irreconcilable, we are showing that we are reconcilable,” Faure stressed.
Before the current union, the plural left had already achieved more successes with a similar dynamic
Socialism, deeply divided, needed more days and a final vote that recomposes the red-green-pink figure (the plural left) that governed France between 1997 and 2002. It was the last time that the left did so together. Before, they had staged successes with a similar dynamic: the Popular Front in 1936, the Common Program of 1972 that later led to the union of the left in 1981 and the victory, in May 1981, of the socialist François Mitterrand. In this 21st century, many socialists considered the pact counterproductive and humiliating as if the PS was still the dominant party of a few decades ago and not the wasteland it has become.
Not everyone accepted the pact
The approval of the pact with Mélenchon has opened a detractor front within the rubble of the old PS. Several figures have proposed the maintenance of dissident candidates for the June legislative elections. The former Socialist Prime Minister, Bernard Cazeneuveleft the party while one of the heads of government of François Hollande’s presidency, Jean-Marc Ayrault called the deal a “botched job”.
François Hollande, the socialist emperor who marked the final decline of the PS, “rejected” the agreement while the president of Occitania, Carole Delga, voted against it and decided to opt for their own candidates for next month’s legislative elections. The former first secretary of the PS and author of the law on 35 weekly hours of work, Martine Aubrihas backed the pact despite his declared “deep reservations.”
Francia Insumisa conducts the orchestra of the left
There is rough seas and chaos within the PS. A historical fracture clarifies the ambiguities of a formation that has nothing to do with the values it professes and that, from now on, no longer has the future in its hands. Francia Insumisa conducts the orchestra: communists, environmentalists and socialists play the melody drawn by the baton of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
For the first time since 1997, the left will go to a legislative consultation together. 15 years after leaving the Socialist Party (2008) with the main idea that it was necessary “invent another left”, Mélenchon sees his project completed. It is also the first time that an opposition sector of socialism located more to the left than the PS devours the party and becomes, from a more radical proposal, the center of gravity of the reconfiguration.
Mélenchon held the torch
The history of Mélenchon has a trajectory as controversial as it is clear. An arrow turning towards the same target. In 2008, when he left the PS, Mélenchon founded the Left Party. In 2009 he joined the Left Front together with the communists and other parties and with it he was twice elected European deputy (2009 and 2014), he also participated in the 2012 presidential election, where he finished fourth with 11.10% of the votes. .
Inspired by the social and political movements of Latin America, Mélenchon founded Francia Insumisa
In 2016, Mélenchon, inspired by the social and political movements of Latin America (Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico) founded Francia Insumisa (LFI). This rupture left allowed him to participate once again in a presidential election in 2017. He came in fourth place with 19.58% and in June of that same year, he was elected as a deputy. He returned to the presidential bid in 2022, where he has won almost twice as many votes as in 2012, 21.95%, and won third place behind President Macron and the far-right Le Pen.
Since he was a Trotskyist militant in the 1970s, when he was known by the pseudonym of Santerregoing through the three presidential candidacies to this day, a center of rearticulation of the left, years and catastrophes have passed without Mélenchon denying mistakes or failures.
There is a long way to go to know what will happen in June, but there is already a progressive plinth. Even those who cannot stand Mélenchon begin to dream that, thanks to this New Popular Ecological and Social Union, the exclusivity of the extreme right as the main opposition force will disappear and in its place, at last, a decent social and political perspective will open up.