How the French Communist Party lost its base

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The French Communist Party (PCF) was once a major political force, but which has declined over recent decades into a marginal party with just seven Members of Parliament. It was arguably saved from collapse by the Front de Gauche alliance it formed five years ago with the radical-left Parti de Gauche.  But despite the deep difficulties of the socialist government, the PCF and its ally have been unable to establish a popular alternative on the Left, while the spectacular surge of the far-right Front National has included significant gains among the blue-collar electorate which was once the lifeblood of the PCF. Sociologist Julian Mischi is the author of a book published last month which studies the long divorce between the PCF and its working class base, and in this interview with Lénaïg Bredoux he explains how the party has become an organisation ‘dominated by teachers and regional public service managers’.

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Mediapart: In your book you refer to the striking statistics of the exodus of blue-collar workers from the ranks of the French Communist Party. In 2008, they represented just 9% of party congress delegates, compared with 13% in 2001 and 45% in the 1970s. Why is this?