If the signature of the common program intervenes in 1972, its origin goes back to the stakes of the bipolarization of the political life under the Fifth Republic. The balances of the previous Republic – linked to the departmental proportional ballot – are broken. The PCF, the leading party since the Liberation, does not manage, with 10 deputies, to form a parliamentary group while the number of votes it gathers (19.2% of the vote) is close to that of the Gaullists (20, 4% and 198 deputies). The voting system – uninominal majority suffrage in two rounds per constituency – thus makes the election.
The establishment of the new regime also put an end to a republican taboo imposed by the memory of Bonapartist Caesarism, namely the election of the President of the Republic by direct universal suffrage. The year 1962 marked the real break. As of the October debate on the motion of censure, certain speakers of the PCF call for a start from the democratic forces having to lead to a project of “common program”. If word gets out, it will take ten years for it to materialize.
Despite everything, it should be emphasized that, on the left, the question of the common program echoes the memories of the experiences of 1936 or 1944-1947. But the process of rapprochement had to come to terms, not only with the decomposition-recomposition of the SFIO into the Socialist Party, but also with the events of May-June 1968 and the presidential elections of 1969. The union of the left, within the framework of ‘a common program of government, invites to build an alternative. to those who say: “Only one solution, the Revolution!” »others respond: “A single solution, the common program!” »
The SFIO failed to recover from the 1969 presidential election. Faced with this crisis, the Union of Clubs for the Renewal of the Left (UCRG), led by Alain Savary, merged with what remained of the SFIO and with Jean Poperen’s Union of Socialist Groups and Clubs (UGCS) for found the New Socialist Party (NPS) in July 1969. The presence of those close to Guy Mollet did not facilitate this refoundation. Jean-Pierre Chevènement’s Center for Socialist Studies, Research and Education (Ceres) denounces this masquerade in the form of a pamphlet entitled Socialism or social-mediocracy. However, these fragmented formations manage to unite. The Convention of Republican Institutions (CIR), led by François Mitterrand, took part in the (re)founding of the Socialist Party, at the Épinay-sur-Seine congress (June 1971), bringing together the NPS, Objectif 72, Vie nouvelle and new activists. New party, new statutes and new emblem are then in order. The PS can engage in discussions with other left formations.
At the other pole of the parliamentary left, the PCF is also experiencing a major change. Waldeck Rochet, who fell ill, left the party to Georges Marchais. It was at the Arcueil Central Committee (October 7-9, 1971) that the PCF unanimously approved the idea of a “program of democratic government and popular union”. It is ” to change direction “. This project explicitly defines a transformative path that extends the idea of advanced democracy, set out in 1968.
The joint government program was ratified on June 27, 1972. While the PCF allied itself with the PS, a third force joined the alliance a month later, effectively giving the PS a central place: the Mouvement des radicals de gauche de Robert Faber. The radicals then split into two branches, one choosing the right, the other the left, making the center “unthinkable” within the Fifth Republic.
The idea of political, economic and social democracy runs throughout the document. Both in the institutional field and in that of international relations, the text does not recommend a break but an evolution within the framework of a next legislature. The economic part with large nationalizations introduces the strongest changes.
The text also includes an important mention to increase the minimum wage, the reduction of working time to 39 hours, retirement at 60 for men and 55 for women, the abolition of the death penalty, the dissolution of NATO, but also new trade union rights, the construction of social housing, the fight against air and water pollution, gender equality, etc. If it is a political program, the fact remains that trade union organizations (CGT, CFDT, FEN) approve it. The CGT explicitly supports this program which constitutes, according to it, the outlet of all the protest struggles.
The union of the left creates a dynamic: PS and PCF are experiencing an upturn. In the legislative elections of 1973, the PS obtained with the MRG 20.8% of the votes cast, trailing the PCF, stable at 21.4%. But some communists deplore the unitary illusions that have left the ground open to the PS. Whether “union is fight”, the hope aroused by this joint program does not wane. The effects of the economic and social crisis during the Giscard years still gave it an alternative dimension, despite the unilateral rupture of 1977 by the PCF. If the reference to the common program disappears, its release will be May 10, 1981.