Friday 9 September 2011

French Lessons in Rural Socialism & 2013 English County Council Elections

French Lessons in Rural Socialism

The Left in rural France unlike that in England has always had a significant electoral base.

And that "Progressive" rural vote was overwhelming dominated by t"h PCF - Parti Communist Francais, established at the December 1920 Congress at Tours (in the Loire).

Such was the success of the Communist Parties rural support, that at the first elections the PCF contested, in 1924 it polled significantly better in rural areas than its supposed urban heartlands. 

For example it polled over 30% of the vote in Lot-et Garonne in South East  of Bordeaux.

By 1936 the PCF was significantly out polling other parties on the left and right in rural areas,  a dominance in areas it held well into the 1980s a fact rarely commented upon and  far from it's image of "Parti de la classe ouvriere" (Party of the urban working class)

The PCF dominated political life in regions such as Limousin and the Dordogne in South East France as well as in the East. The Communist Party was still scoring 16% of the vote in the English middle class tourists new Avalon of the Dordonge Region in 1993

These zones of rural PCF strength remained very stable, despite national political or party internal upheavals.

PCF (along with the Socialists) were able not only attract the substantial majority of landless rural workers but also to make inroads amongst the small farmers,wine growers and shop keepers.

These coalitions remained incredibly faithful to the Party no doubt aided by local organisation, the Parties well respected journal La Terre.  

 La Terre (The Earth) was established in January 1937 by "Waldeck" Emile Rochet  a former boy cow herder from Sainte-Croix in Saone-et-Loire.

La Terre becoming the most widely read agricultural weekly in France.

La Terre soon established a significant following in Central and South East France (Avergne, Limousin, Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrenees and Provence. 

A popular La Terre slogan was "Happiness for the workers of the field"

The Communist Party in France also played a heroic and leading role in WW2 resistance movement.

Paysans! Paysannes! Pour une vie phis riche
Votes Communiste
Men and Women of farms ! for a rich life
Vote Communist

English 2013 County Council Elections

There is no reason why the English Left should not be able to secure substantial electoral support in rural areas and in particular at the Country Council elections of May 2013. The historical roots of the Left can still be felt in Norfolk, Suffolk,and Lincolnshire where the old Agricultural Workers Union was strong.

But the Left urgently needs a strategy for ensuring that Shire Tories stranglehold on our County Councils is irrevocably broken.

This can only be achieved by breaking the dominate position of the Tory Party in its own backyard and in only a minority of cases is the Labour Party in a electoral realistic position to defeat very rural Tories (at least in 2013). The Labour Party will be in much stronger position in County towns and in most cases will be the obvious candidate.

Only through Progressive groups and individuals in rural areas forming a concerted broad, but  "informal" coalition of Labour, Greens, Communists, Left, Anti cuts, non Coalition Lib Dems, County First, Regionalist, Nationalists and Independents can we make the in roads we need to turn the tide in 2013.

I know some discussions have taken place in Suffolk, Dorset, Cornwall and the Isle of Wight along these lines and maybe such a group could produce an objective voters guide to the County and who is in the best position to unseat the Tory.

Such a group could ask for candidates to support very broad "core" list of County/Rural platform, in areas such as cuts, housing, jobs, farming, poverty, fuel, devolution, etc. These "core" demands would need to be carefully agreed to avoid being over prescriptive.

The French Communists in the 1920's & 1930's by Laird Boswell