“It has been twenty years since the reconquest of this electorate has obsessed the left without it managing to find a solution”


MEP Manon Aubry, during the summer days of La France insoumise, the Amfis, in Châteauneuf-sur-Isère (Drôme), August 25, 2023.

Marion Fontaine is a specialist in the history of the crisis of industrial societies, socialisms and the labor movement. She recalls that beyond the popular cles’ break with the left, the most important electoral behavior of this population is abstention, which reflects “a major departure from politics”.

In this new school year, the working cles are the subject of appeals from the foot of many political parties, from the left to the far right. The left has been unable to mobilize the majority of this electorate for a long time. When did the separation date back to?

Things began to fall apart between the left and the working cles in the 1980s, due to m unemployment and deindustrialization which fragmented the large labor pools and then, more broadly, the industrial fabric throughout the territory. At the same time, the left parties are changing by confronting several challenges, whether it is the test of power, from 1981 for the Socialist Party, or the effects of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is a muffled deliquescence, the depth of which is not immediately grasped. The real shock is April 21, 2002 [l’élimination de Lionel Jospin au premier tour de l’élection présidentielle], even if the crisis of workers’ establishment of parties and the potential attractiveness of the far right began to become themes present in the 1990s.

It is with April 21 that it becomes clear that, in certain industrialized zones, like the North, the socialist candidate and the communist candidate do not manage any more to attract the working voices, or much less than before. Before being a success for the far right, this April 21 is first and foremost a defeat for the left. This then enters a vicious circle from which it does not manage to escape: for twenty years the reconquest of the working cles has obsessed the left without it managing to find a solution to respond to it.

Well before, therefore, the famous note from the Terra Nova think tank, in 2011, which drew the outlines of a new electorate for the left, feminized, young, from immigrant backgrounds, and marked the end of “the historic coalition of the left centered on the working cl”…

This note, awkward, testifies to the political disarray of a left which feels that its old social base is crumbling and which seeks to find another anchor. It is a short-term electoral analysis; it caused an outcry, because it was tantamount to saying that the left had to cut itself off from its own past in order to reinvent itself. The note is significant, less on its ability to analyze reality than on the conceptions it conveys. It denotes indeed a very condescending vision, aiming to say that now at least part of the working cles are the receptacle of conservative ideas. It’s a pretty obvious break. For a long time, the left was not content to say that it had to help the working cles, it believed that the future was in the working cles, and that it was the ruling cles that were conservative.

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