At the municipal level, the communist anchor is changing

It’s always the same story: glass half full or glass half empty? Everything is a question of perspective. Questioned by Release on the second round of the municipal elections, the PCF national secretary, Fabien Roussel, prefers to speak of “Halftone success”. Sunday evening, after a speech bordering on triumphalism, he went to celebrate the reconquest of Villejuif (Val-de-Marne), lost in 2014 to the right and this time taken up by a union list of the left led by a communist. Proof that if the PCF loses fiefs in its red suburbs, it also knows how to regain them.

On the other hand, the boss of the Communists did not go to the headquarters of the Val-de-Marne federation, where the atmosphere was undoubtedly less cheerful. In the department, the party lost four cities of over 10,000 inhabitants, including Champigny-sur-Marne, the city of Georges Marchais. A communist executive from the Parisian suburbs has it a little bad: “Instead of standing up to everyone, Fabien Roussel seeks to organize a narrative in which there is no defeat.” The problem, he says, is that when you refuse to admit defeat, it becomes difficult to draw conclusions.

Negative balance

There are reasons to rejoice, however, for the PCF. The number of its elected representatives will even increase compared to 2014. “It is the first time in a long time that we have not lost ground”, welcomes Pierre Lacaze, the party’s election officer. While in the last municipal elections, around fifty cities with more than 3,500 inhabitants left the communist fold, in 2020, the PCF counted six victories in the same category. Without counting the 233 municipalities won in the first round and the new influence in the metropolises: the unions on the left (especially with the green ones) in the big cities having been more numerous than in 2014, the reds naturally reap the fruits of the green push. In Poitiers, Bordeaux, Lyon, Besançon and perhaps Marseille, the communists will participate in the municipal and metropolitan majorities. In Nancy and Strasbourg, they will have assistants. Success in big cities makes up for some defeats. “In the Herald, we are losing two municipalities but as we have achieved more agreements with the other parties, especially in Montpellier, the results are positive”, weighs the Mr. Elections of the PCF. Which also reminds of “Great victories”, as in Bobigny, Noisy-le-Sec (in Seine-Saint-Denis) but especially Corbeil-Essonnes (Essonne), lost to Serge Dassault in 1995, where the fifth candidacy was the good one for Bruno Piriou.

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But there is the glass half empty, too. The PCF lost fifteen cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants and gained only nine. The balance is negative. In addition to the resounding defeats in the Paris suburbs (Saint-Denis, Aubervilliers), the Communists bowed to Arles and Gardanne (Bouches-du-Rhône), to Givors in the Lyon suburbs, to Fontaine (Isère) or even to Saint-Pierre -des-Corps, next to Tours. In these last three cities, the observation is rather cruel for the Communists: while they prevail in the central cities with the environmentalists, they retreat to the popular suburbs. In Saint-Pierre-des-Corps, the defeat is all the more symbolic since the city was in the hands of the PCF since in 1920 at the Congress of Tours. “Sunday evening I took a twenty-story building over my head “sighs Michel Soulas, unfortunate PCF candidate in the city of 15,000 inhabitants. He refuses to wear the hat by himself. In his city, red paint has been peeling for years. Since 1973, the PCF no longer wins without the socialists. And then, “Marie-France Beaufils [maire PCF sortante, élue depuis 1983, ndlr] was a figure she captured voices beyond the left, he explains. We sometimes hid behind her thinking that it was the Communists’ score, when it was hers.»Proof of erosion: in the last European elections, the list of Ian Brossat (PCF) won only 9% of the votes in the city.

“Disunity” and “weakening”

We summarize: the party of Fabien Roussel progresses thanks to the union of the lefts and especially thanks to the green wave. Which allows somehow to offset his defeats, often when he is alone or at the head of the union of the left. “There is a certain irony in this, points out a party official. The new leadership of the PCF was elected on the promise of restoring its identity to the party, by presenting candidates labeled communists in as many elections as possible – European, regional and even presidential. And yet it is only thanks to the lists of unions that the defeat of the PCF does not come to light. ” Fabien Roussel does not boast either: “We are losing cities because of the disunities of the left, he admits. But also, sometimes, because of a weakening of our forces. ” In the background: the massive abstention which certainly affected all the electorates, but undoubtedly, in the first place that of the Communists. “When you make 80% in a polling station, but only 80 people go to vote, you lose every time”, calculates a frame. On this point, the defeat on Sunday evening of Jean-Paul Lecoq at Le Havre can serve as a textbook case. While the Prime Minister achieved his best scores in the downtown offices, where the participation was the highest, the PCF candidate prevailed where the abstention was the most massive. And the balance naturally tipped over to the side of Edouard Philippe. This site of abstention, Fabien Roussel promises to tackle it as quickly as possible. Listening to people, carrying their anger and, above all, giving them hope. He adds : “It’s easy to say, but now you have to do it.”

Nicolas Massol

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