With most European countries run by parties that identify themselves as social democratic or socialist, the French left faces a dual challenge: establishing sufficient cooperation with its neighbors in order to shape general European policies, and producing a blueprint for reform, a third way, as Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder might call it. This will require a true intellectual revolution in the French left, and its heritage will have to be subjected to critical scrutiny and redefinition. Vague references to greater democracy or social justice will not suffice. These must come with concrete proposals to design the contemporary social landscape.
Almost two years have passed since the Socialist Party’s victory in the National Assembly elections, and Lionel Jospin’s government may be proud of a number of accomplishments: several inegalitarian initiatives of the previous government have been foiled; the number of hours in the working week has been reduced; draft legislation has been presented that allows for rights for homosexual couples; reforms have been advanced in the field of social security; reform has begun in the judicial system; European development has been pushed toward more consideration of social issues. Above all there is a renewed confidence in what can be done in the political arena. However, these are all isolated achievements, and don’t compose a coherent project or model. Here the French left is stymied by three handicaps....
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