The second feminist wave in France

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LCR BALANCE-SHEET


I /1970-1980: phase of expansion and major victories

The second feminist wave in France began in 1970, in the wake of the broad social movement around May 1968 (student movement, then a general strike of working people of both sexes). The upheaval in French society brought forth new social movements: the feminist movement, the gay movement, the environmental movement etc. But on the political front, the right remained in government until 1981, when Francois Mitterrand was elected president of the Republic and headed a left majority (especially SP and CP) at the National Assembly. In the opposition, there was a very active far left, with strong divisions among the different Maoist currents fascinated by the “armed” struggle and the Trotskyists. The LCR had a strong presence among educated youth, was seeking to gain a foothold among workers and to build a left opposition in the trade unions etc. The French Communist Party (PCF), the leading political force among the workers’ movement until the beginning of the 1970s, was a CP with an extremely Stalinist tradition. Until 1975, the PCF, like the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT – the largest trade union confederation) under its influence, had seen feminism as “petit-bourgeois”, or even as a force driven by the right wing to divide the labour movement. This explains the resulting sectarianism of part of the feminist movement, with respect to the workers’ movement and political organisations in general.

1) Conditions in which the movement emerged

Rise in educational levels among girls Growth in women’s wage labour Discovery of a new contraceptive technique (the pill) and a new abortion method: the “Karman” method May 1968 and youth politicisation The gap between promises of equality held out to girls and reality: girls seen as at men’s service, in family, sexuality, political life etc.

2) The different currents

It must be remembered that at the time all feminist currents shared a general outlook of a change in society on the horizon.

• Identity or difference feminism: Women’s being as a creativity specific to women whose roots could be found in biology.

• “Radical” feminism: domestic labour analysed as the material basis of the economic oppression of all women, whatever their social class. Women were a class exploited by men: patriarchal oppression profits all men economically and directly, in the same way: this current refused any alliance with mixed social movements.

• “Class struggle”(or socialist) feminism: all women are oppressed but not in the same way. Traditional class exploitation (capital vs. labour) intersects with patriarchal oppression. Need to combine the autonomous action of the feminist movement with other social movements, and in particular with the workers’ movement.

3) Major issues in struggles

- Free access to abortion and contraception, freedom to control one’s own body (sexual freedom and choice of sexual orientation, as the gay liberation movement had also emerged). - Criticism of traditional division of labour within the home and in the workforce. - Affirmation that private life is political. - Autonomy of women’s movement.

4) The LCR

- After stormy debates, the LCR voiced its support to the “autonomous” women’s movement, in 1971-1972.

- The LCR played a part in building the “class struggle” feminist current, by taking part in journals close to it, by attempting to encourage mass campaigns by women’s groups; LCR was present in unitary structures such as the Movement for freedom of abortion and contraception (Mouvement pour la liberté de l’Avortement et de la contraception – MLAC). LCR played a part in the theoretical debate (as above) and in political debates. For example, we have defended a certain concept of women’s movement autonomy different from that of the radical feminists for whom autonomy equalled separatism and systematic non-mixity. For us, it means autonomy with respect to the state, religious institutions, party apparatus but not with respect to the class struggle. It also means that women should lead their own struggles and not have any priorities other than defence of women’s rights imposed on them.

In the LCR, members in favour of holding non-mixed meetings on all levels of the organisation were a minority in the debate. Some of them left the LCR in the mid-1970s.

-1977: Feminists in the LCR founded the journal Les Cahiers du féminisme. This journal was not initially viewed by the LCR leadership as a party publication. It was published from 1977 to 1998 (with a few months’ interruption in 1980). This journal had an impact well beyond the LCR membership and had several aims: to promote feminism within the LCR and throughout the workers’ movement (in particular in trade unions); to deepen the theoretical and political debate with all currents of the feminist movement. This very lively journal (featuring reports on struggles, book reviews, etc.) put a priority on writing in a clear, simple language, easily understandable by those outside the circle of initiates. Its publication was halted due to a failure to come up with enough new blood among the LCR’s new generation of activists.

  • To learn about the LCR’s positions, please consult the booklet L’oppression des femmes et la lutte pour leur émancipation, published in 2000, available on internet on the site Europe solidaire sans frontières: www.europe-solidaire.org.

II/ 1981-1985: The feminist movement on the defensive (left/right governments, see appendix 2)

1) Institutional feminism:

In 1981, the left’s arrival in power led to the creation of the Ministry for women’s rights, directed by Yvette Roudy and the enactment of several laws in favour of equality between men and women. In 1982, under the pressure of the feminist movement, a law allowed for the reimbursement of abortion, and in 1983, a law on workplace equality was enacted. As there were no sanctions for firms that failed to respect it, it would be enforced very little.

2) Neoliberal offensive

The policies of Ministry for women’s rights could be seen as a showcase: they camouflaged the government’s economic and social policies that favoured part-time work and brought in a family allowance for the third child equivalent to the social minimum (1985) a measure that the right would extend subsequently for the second (1994), then the first child. To bring down unemployment, women with less education and lower wages were encouraged to leave the labour market to bring up their children at home, for three years. At the same time, individual childcare for children under three was encouraged at the expense of public daycare centres. Thus, in 1994, the right wing that was once again in the majority created a home childcare allowance (AGED – allocation de garde d’enfants a domicile), resulting in a very significant income tax saving for privileged social layers. Upon its return to power, the left did not rescind this allowance.

3) Struggles

Up against austerity, the apathy and divisions of trade-union leaderships, working women and men began to struggle and organise through “coordinations” .

-After the students in 1986, railway workers launched a struggle in 1988.

-And a completely new phenomenon: several struggles by working women in the tertiary field developed between 1989 and 1993 and organised in France-wide coordinating bodies, sometimes taking the leadership in these (nurses, teachers, tax, social workers). However, these struggles would remain very isolated. In the sectors in which women were expected to see their work as an underpaid vocation, they demanded salary rises and the recognition of their professional qualifications.

4) The feminist movement:

Faced with this offensive against women’s right to work and the media that conveyed the view that women no longer had any grievances, the feminist movement was divided and on the defensive. Should they allow the Ministry of women’s rights to take the lead, or retain their independence? Several feminist activists were taken in … The feminists in the LCR were strong advocates for maintaining independence.

1982: a major unitary offensive (Conference on women at work and women’s right to work), organised by the “class-struggle feminist” current. This brought feminists from the Family Planning movement, trade-union feminists from various trade unions, feminist activists from various associations, to confront the left government on its policies. Some feminists boycotted this initiative… Afterwards, the feminist movement went through several years of atomisation, falling back on work in associations dealing with specific or local issues.

Nevertheless, when serious events occurred (several rapes of women on public transport with no public reaction) and the offensive by far-right commandos at hospitals and clinics to try to prevent women from undergoing abortions, “class-struggle feminist” activists, whether or not they belonged to our organisation, founded associations to relaunch a united feminist initiative:

1985: founding of the Feminist collective against rape, by Family Planning activists. Their action, alongside with other associations such as AFFT (Association against violence against women at work), This led to a series of circulars and laws on issues of violence: against sexual abuse of children (1989); against sexual harassment (1992), against domestic violence.

1992: in France, publication of a book by Françoise Gaspard (Socialist Party) and Anne Le Gall: Au pouvoir citoyennes, Liberté, égalité, parité.

In Europe, at the Athens summit (November), prominent women from the left and the right spoke out for parity representation of men and women in elected assemblies.

1993: On November 10th, a manifesto in favour of parity, signed by 288 men and 289 women, was published in Le Monde. For several years, parity was the only subject that got much of a hearing in the mass media. However, there was no unanimity on this subject and not all feminists saw it as a priority issue by any means!

A new paragraph became part of the preamble to the constitution, and enacted in 2000. It stated: “The law promotes equal access of women and men to terms and functions”. Moreover, a new electoral act claimed to bring in parity for one round elections and proportional votes. For major elections, such as the National Assembly, parties face financial sanctions if they fail to respect parity. In 2002, the SP and UMP (the right wing) preferred to pay the fines. In France, there are 77 women at the National assembly out of 577 seats, or 12% women!

5) The LCR

The LCR:Through such means as its journal Les Cahiers du féminisme and its women activists in a number of associations and trade unions, the LCR reaffirmed that feminism was not a thing of the past, and on the contrary women’s mobilisation in all spheres is indispensable to defend their rights. In 1987, a big celebration was organised for the 10th anniversary of Les Cahiers du féminisme; feminist spokespersons from many currents and associations attended, attesting to the key role we played throughout that difficult period. On the question of parity, the journal’s editorial board joined in the opinion battle to feminise political life but opposed the adoption of parity as a constitutional principle. We favoured positive action measures in favour of women in politics, to uphold the principle of equality, but were against inscribing “la différence” in the Constitution. However, a majority of the LCR did vote in favour of parity during a party congress, with no thorough debate on the point. In 2000, a national LCR conference was held on the issue of prostitution and global justice. A minority in the organisation favoured the recognition of prostituted persons as “sex workers”, while the majority viewed prostitution as the outcome of the oppression of women and an expression of violence against women (see booklet published in 2003).


III / 1995 – 2002: A new cycle of struggles; the workers’ movement and other social movements rebuilding in disarray

After many very dynamic demonstrations against far-right commandos and Chirac forming a shock-troop government including direct representation of Opus Dei, after his election as President of the Republic in March 1995, a very large-scale social movement took shape.

24 November 1995: 40 000 people take to the streets, for women’s right to work, against attacks by far-right commandos, against the moral order, on the initiative of CADAC, with a call launched by over 140 organisations (associations, parties, trade unions). A large demonstration in Paris brought out several generations of women. It was mixed, and very united: for the first time, the PCF and the CGT called for this demonstration alongside the feminist associations.

November-December 1995: a broad strike wave, in particular in the civil service and public sector, against the social security reform. The public transport strike brought France to a halt, etc. Women were highly mobilised. The government emerged from the social and political crisis thanks to support from the Confédération française du travail (CFDT) to the government’s scheme.

1996 – 1997: The sans-papiers (undocumented migrants) struggle grew in scope: a mass petition against new restrictions on foreigners coming into France.

1997: 2000 people (a majority of them women) took part in Les Assises pour les droits des femmes (Conference for women’s rights): an initiative of the Collectif national pour les droits des femmes (CNDF).

March 1997: The left is once again in the majority at the National Assembly. November 1997: the CNDF organised a demonstration for women’s right to work, against mandatory part-time work, for shorter working hours for all men and women, in the context of the implementation of the Aubry laws reducing working hours to 35 (RTT). On that basis, CNDF organised a campaign against mandatory part-time work etc. linking this demand to the need for a real RTT, and won an end to subsidies to firms that hired on part-time staff, although in other ways the Aubry laws made labour flexibility worse. Although this demonstration was not very large, it had considerable symbolic importance: it was the only one organised on the question of shorter working hours for all, men and women!

1998: first Inter-trade-union feminist educational days

For the first time since the early 1980s, this large wave of mobilisation gave a fresh impetus to all social movements and put new political perspectives on the agenda. In the wake of 1995, many associations were founded to defend the “sans droits”: Agir contre le chômage (AC) – Action against unemployment; le Droit au logement (DAL – Right to Housing); the collectives to defend sans-papiers, etc. These included ATTAC, which would become a focal point for global justice mobilisation – a commission on Gender and Globalisation was organised within ATTAC. In these associations, with hybrid and complex structures – bringing together many levels of different types of organisations but also individuals – one could find trade unionists, male and female activists disappointed by the traditional left, and activists on the far left, feminist activists etc. Le Collectif national pour les droits des femmes (CNDF – National Collective for Women’s Rights) was founded in this context.

CNDF is not a unified feminist organisation: it is a federation of various associations, trade unions and political organisations united with a single aim: to organise a unitary struggle for women’s rights. The political spectrum represented is very broad, and the collective operated by consensus, making decision-making a very complicated matter. This federation encountered the same problems as other associations founded on the same model (such as ATTAC). How can equality between individual activist members and spokespersons for different types of organisations be assured? How can a consensus be arrived at between radical activists who tend to be “on the left of the left: and the traditional left, itself broken up into several currents etc.

But CNDF has encountered a specific problem: being overlooked, like all manifestations of “class-struggle feminism” of which it is in general a standard-bearer – by the media, preferring more media-friendly associations or personalities, who don’t challenge the ruling social order.

LCR activists played a major role in stimulating CNDF and feminist activity within ATTAC and the trade unions.

2000: The World March of Women Against Violence and Poverty gave rise to several demonstrations in France and Europe.

IV/ 2002-2006: old and new obstacles

2002: Failure of the left in presidential elections: the far-right candidate (Le Pen) came second in the first round of the elections. Breakthrough for the far left, and in particular for our candidate O. Besancenot. During the second round of the elections, to block the far right, 80% of voters voted for the right-wing candidate, Chirac. Since then, the right has gone on the offensive against the contributory pension system, public firms, the right to work, and in favour of extending precarious work, etc. This has led to many strikes, in particular against pension system reform in 2003, that were unsuccessful. In 2004, the left won the regional and European elections. In 2005, after a very unitary mass campaign (in which feminists succeeded in playing a considerable role), the left call for a “No” vote on the European Constitutional Treaty (ECT) referendum carried the day, despite a relentless media campaign. In 2006, three was a very powerful youth movement, in conjunction with working people, against the CPE (contrat première embauche – initial hiring contract). This movement was victorious. The complex configuration of social movements in continuous recomposition is more and more crossed and polarised by the growing need to see anti-neoliberal mobilisations lead to a political recomposition and alternative, and to the debates this is raising within parties.

Unlike the 1970s, the feminist movement must make its presence felt in a context marked by mass unemployment, the rise of racism and reactionary identity-based and religious movements, a war climate justified in the name of a so-called struggle against international terrorism, etc. In this context, come activists could be tempted to view feminism as a superfluous luxury. Moreover, feminists face other difficulties:

Illusions of Equality: a very common illusion among educated youth, before they get a foothold in the labour market, except among lesbians and young women of immigrant origin. This is not a new phenomenon but a growing one. Moreover, for many years now, young feminists have got their training through feminist studies and research. They are very up on all the most obscure theoretical debates, but few are seriously involved in activism.

New reactionary currents have appeared:

a) Reappearance of differentialist currents under pressure from religious movements and their fundamentalist currents, but also from certain psychoanalysts. In the name of divine law or of an (untouchable) “symbolic order”, the “difference between the sexes” must be respected, along with the division of tasks between men and women in the traditional family order. This means returning to the patriarchal moral and sexual order, against equality demands raised by gay couples, and the concept that femininity and masculinity are the outcome of the social construction of gender.

b) “Post-feminism”: some privileged women (intellectuals and artists) have confused women’s freedom and commoditisation of bodies, and call for legal recognition and regulation of prostitution. For these women, there are no longer oppressive relations between men and women. They claim we have come to live in a society where all men and women are free to live as they please, independent of social restrictions, except for those “unfortunate” women who live in “immigrant” districts or “under-developed” countries. For these women, calling for repression of sexual violence is taking the side of the moral order. These celebrities borrow many elements of their discourse from “postfeminism”, which is highly-developed in North America.

c) Bourgeois feminism: Nowadays, the right wing is defending women’s rights – that is, the rights of women in management to work and to pass the household tasks they don’t want to do or don’t have time for, off on other women (working in precarious conditions, and often non-citizens).

New divisions: 2003: a major, unitary demonstration was held on the 8th of March to support the action of the association Ni putes, ni soumises. Through a march, several months long, throughout France, Ni putes, ni soumises succeeded in spotlighting discrimination and violence against young women in working-class neighbourhoods. At the time, we could hope in building links between the feminist generation coming out of 1968 and the new generation. Unfortunately, the media success and their misunderstanding of the importance of the “autonomy” of a movement for women’s rights, they gave in to the siren song of the powers-that-be and the Socialist Party.

Since then, certain feminist claim to struggle against a “main enemy”.

- For some of them, the struggle against “islamophobia” is front and centre. This is why they came to the defence of schoolgirls wearing headscarves at school and spoke out against the law banning religious symbols at schools, approved by the ruling majority and the SP in 2004. This is why they are activists in the movement “Nous sommes les indigènes de la République” (we are the Republic’s indigenous peoples) or “Une école pour toutes et tous” – A school for all. This current’s analysis is based almost exclusively on “post-colonial” discrimination.

- On the other hand, other groups such as Ni putes, ni soumises, founded in 2002, or the French movement for family planning, or UFAL – Union des familles laïques – Union of secular families, etc. supported the law banning headscarves at school to thwart what they view as a major threat to “the Republic”: the rise of religious fundamentalisms throughout the world and in France.

- Through our efforts, CNDF refused to take a stand for or against the law, to avert a split. However, it decided to wage several simultaneous struggles: against racism, against the moral order preached by leading currents in religions but also against neoliberal policies (which NPNS refuses to do) and against the economic and social inequalities that have grown significantly among the population and feed into discrimination against women, in particular in working-class milieus and those who are most likely to have immigrant parents.

In CNDF, we have insisted on the need to take plural oppressions into account, and their combined and cumulative impact.

The demonstration on 6 March 2004 in the Paris region was organised in an atmosphere of extreme tension.

Before and after the headscarf debate, CNDF launched a campaign against violence against women, based on a national inquiry published in 2000, under the direction of Maryse Jaspard, indicating the 10% of women were victims of different forms of conjugal violence and that 48 000 women were raped every year in France. The findings of this inquiry were challenged in a systematic media campaign on the part of the “post-feminists”. CNDF worked on “integral” draft legislation based on the Spanish law, putting the priority on prevention and aid to victims. This campaign had a very different focus from the government’s “security-based” campaigns, or the campaign waged by “Ni putes, ni soumises”, who let themselves be taken in by the right and the SP, in a public security campaign targeting young lads in tough suburbs. The CNDF campaign emphasised that such violence could be found in all social strata and not only in downtrodden areas of African or North-African origin. The death of Sohane, a young girl burnt to death in October 2002 in a Paris suburb, made the tough housing estates a focus of the problem in the media. Alas, our campaign got a certain echo when actress Marie Trintignant was beaten to death by her companion, a well-known singer, in July, 2003.

One last current, a very small one, has emerged around queer theory, essentially among young academics, and activists in groups whose priority is fighting discrimination against sexual minorities: Unfortunately, in France the challenge to reified sexual identities also brings two negative effects: sidelining relations of domination based on sex and class; and a virulent denunciation of feminism, caricatured by queer theorists as “victim-based and essentialist”. This is either gross ignorance or just as regrettable bad faith.

The “Feminist Alternatives” meeting, held in December 2005 on CNDF’s initiative, was an opportunity to get a clear view of the problems feminist activism had met up with in recent years. However, it did not succeed in finding the forces to overcome the new challenges facing feminists:

1) How to pass the torch on to new generations?

2) In particular, how to build links with young women in working-class districts? How to struggle against the ultra-virile outlook of some young men in tough suburbs / housing estates / who faced failure in many aspects of their lives, without falling into the sensationalism that fed into security paranoia?

3) How to get access to media that open their doors to the “post-feminists” whose first target is feminist activists, portrayed as yesterday’s women?

4) How to promote joint work between CNDF and the World March of Women in France on a complementary basis and not a competitive one?

In the LCR

The headscarf debate took place as passions ran high, cutting across social movements, left and far-left parties, including the LCR. Feminists in the LCR were divided but the majority of them agreed with the position adopted by the majority on the national leadership in January 2004, summarised as: Neither veil, nor law. At the time, the activists who defended the minority position opted to leave the women’s secretariat:.

However, a new women’s secretariat team rebuilt in the LCR, with a majority of young comrades (including two men) and a core group of activists with varying degrees of experience in the leadership of feminist work. This team was tested in 2003-2004 in the course of very hard-hitting debates inside and outside the organisation, in mass activism but also in CNDF, the trade unions, Family Planning, CADAC, ATTAC, the World March, the Feminist coordination for another Europe, etc. Furthermore, we have re-established a basic educational programme and a national cadre school. Both of these educational programs have been taken charge of pretty much collectively.

We take an active part in the Summer University every year. Five activists on the women’s secretariat belong to the national leadership, one to the political bureau. Finally, the parity principle on the national leadership was adopted in November 2003 and seems to be paying off, although its application is not very simple.

The feminist torch is being passed along between generations, within the LCR, and this is going well. Finally some good news!


Appendix 1 Bold text

EVENTS AND DEBATES THAT HAVE MARKED THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT IN FRANCE (1970-1995)

I) 1970-1980: creation and expansion of the feminist movement and major conquests

August 1970: about a dozen women go and re-light the flame in memory of the unknown wife of the soldier. September 1970: publication by Maspéro editions of “Libération des femmes, année zéro” (« Women’s liberation, year zero »). April 5, 1971 : publication in the Nouvel Observateur (a left-wing weekly) of an appeal signed by 343 well-known women who declared that they had had an abortion. - “Women’s groups” are formed in town and cities neighbourhoods and, gradually, “trade union women’s commissions”. November 1972: the “Bobigny” trial : a young under-age woman and her mother are prosecuted for having had recourse to a clandestine abortion. Defended by Gisèle Halimi, a renowned left-wing lawyer, they win their case. The judicial system can no longer apply the existing laws, dating from 1920and 1923, which forbid both abortion and contraception, with heavy prison sentences, etc. 1972: signature of the Common Programme of the Left. From then on, women’s support is sought after by the Left and the Right. 1973: creation of the Movement for the Freedom of Abortion and Contraception (MLAC), a movement that is mixed and unitary (only the CGT union confederation and the French Communist Party refuse to participate). 1974: President Pompidou dies. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (liberal Right) is elected president, defeating François Mitterand (candidate of the Left who had signed the Common Programme in 1972). Giscard creates the “Secretariat of State for the feminine condition”. 1974: new law authorising contraception for minors, reimbursed. 1975: new, more liberal, divorce law. 1975: provisional law (for five years), authorising “the voluntary interruption of a pregnancy” (French initials – IVG), with many restrictions (known as the “Veil Law”). (The 1920 and 1923 laws are not repealed). 1978: break-up of the Union of the Left (Common Programme), defeat of the Left at the legislative elections. 1979: two demonstrations of 50,000 people take place in autumn 1979, to obtain the lifting of the restrictions contained in the Veil Law concerning non-reimbursement, the legal time-limit to have an abortion, the recognition of a clause of conscience for doctors, etc.; one (non-mixed) is called by a collective of feminist personalities, the other (mixed) is called by unitary collectives and supported by the organisations of the Left and far Left. 1979: new, definitive law on IVG. 1980: new law on rape. The definition of the crime is broadened.

II) 1981-1995: the feminist movement is legitimated, then on the defensive

1981: the Left takes over the government; establishment of a Ministry of the Right of Woman, presided over by Yvette Roudy. 1982: under the pressure of the feminist movement, a law allows abortion to be reimbursed. 1982: 2000 people come together for the Assembly on Women at Work and the Right of Women to Work, initiated by the “feminist class struggle” current, in the big amphitheatre of the Sorbonne. 1983: a law on equality at work is adopted. 1983: creation of an offence of sexist discrimination, inspired by the oifence of racial discrimination; France ratifies the international convention on the elimination of discrimination against women. 1985: discrimination against homosexuals becomes a crime. - creation of a parental allowance for the third child. - subsequently, in 1994, the measure is extended to the second child, then the first child. 1985: creation, with the militants of Family Planning, of the Feminist Collective Against Rape. Their activity, linked to that of other associations such as the AVFT (Association Against Violence Against Women at Work), was to lead to a series of government circulars and laws on the question of violence: against sexual abuse of children (1989) ; against sexual harassment (1992), against domestic violence. 1989: creation of the association “Elles sont pour” (“They are for it”) on the occasion of the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the publication of Simone de Beauvoir’s book, The Second Sex. 1990: creation of the CADAC (Coordinating Committee of Associations for the Right to Abortion and Contraception), which brings together Familiy Planning, the National Association of Centres of Orthogenics, etc. This association was to obtain in 1993 a law creating an offence of impeding an IVG. And especially an improvement of the law on abortion (2000) : time limit of 14 weeks instead of 12; the possibility for minors to have an abortion without the authorisation of their parents, on condition that they had another adult as a reference, etc. 1994: the Right, once again in a majority in the National Assembly, creates the Allowance for Care at Home (AGED), which makes possible a very important lightening of the tax burden on the privileged social layers. The Left, back in government in 1997, does not suppress it.

III) 1995-2002: anew cycle of struggles and anew dynamic for the social movements

IV) 2002-2006: the anti-liberal offensive, new reactionary currents, new divisions and new challenges.




Appendix 2 Bold text

RIGHT/LEFT, ALTERNATING (1968-2002)

1) 1968-81 : the Right in power

- Since 1958, the Right had governed without interruption, in the framework of the Fifth Republic. - 1969: De Gaulle resigns, after a “No” vote in the referendum - 1969: Georges Pompidou becomes the new President of the Republic - 1974: new presidential elections, following on the death of Pompidou; Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (liberal Right) wins the election, defeating François Mitterrand, candidate of the Left.

2) 1981-86: Mitterrand is president and the Left has a majority in the National Assembly.

3) 1986-2002: cohabitation between Right and Left.


- 1986-88: Mitterrand is the “left” president, but in 1986, the Right wins the legislative elections and becomes the majority in the National Assembly. Chirac becomes prime minister. - 1988-1993: Mitterrand is re-elected president; new legislative elections, the Left wins. - 1993-1995: Mitterrand is still president but new legislative elections give the Right a majority. Balladur becomes prime minister. - 1995-1997: Chirac is elected president in 1995 on the slogan “against the social fracture”. The right has all the power. But following on the social movement of 1995, etc., Chirac decides to dissolve the Assembly in 1997. - 1997-2002: Chirac is still president, but the National Assembly has a left majority and Lionel Jospin becomes prime minister.

4) 2002-2006: Chirac is elected in they second round of the presidential election with 80 per cent of the votes. The electors had voted for him ensure the defeat of the far-right who came second in the first round. The subsequent legislative elections confirm the victory of the Right.

2004: the Left wins the regional and European elections.
2005: A majority of electors (55 per cent) vote against the European Constitutional Treaty, from a left position.

Up until now, aside from in social movements, the electors have not found other solutions to contest neo-liberal policies (austerity, flexibility, unemployment, etc.) than to alternate between the traditional Right and Left. Will they have another choice in 2007? That is the question.