The French Socialists’ New European Identity

The French Socialist Party may well have just saved ratification of the European Union’s draft Constitutional Treaty by France in next summer’s referendum. At the beginning of December, party members and supporters voted overwhelmingly in favor of the treaty.

With the popularity of President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin – and French rightist forces more broadly – in steep decline, a “no” vote could have tipped the public against ratification.

But the French Socialists’ vote is also important for the European Left. The French Socialist Party never had its “aggiornamento” or “Bad Godesberg” (where the German SPD in 1959 renounced its last vestiges of Marxism). Instead, the party long defended the theory of a revolutionary “rupture” with capitalism, never clearly acknowledging its reformist nature.

As a result, French Socialists always positioned themselves to the left of their European partners, giving a major economic role to the state following the big nationalizations that took place in 1981 after François Mitterrand was first elected president. Later it fought against Tony Blair’s “Third Way” and Gerhard Schröder’s “new center” in the late 1990’s.