Red flag droops in Paris as old guard marches out

The old guard of France's decidedly old-style Communist Party finally bowed out yesterday, on the last day of a party congress, after five days of line-by-line resistance to a programme of change.

The victor was Robert Hue, the party's candidate in last year's presidential elections, who was able to stamp his genial pragmatism on the party for the first time.

Fate played its part: Georges Marchais, who led the party in its pro- Moscow course until well after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and whose influence persisted even after he left the leadership, spent the opening day of the congress on the operating table. Yesterday, Mr Hue denied reports that his 76-year-old predecessor had had a Yeltsin-style heart bypass, saying that he had "only" had a pacemaker fitted.

But the image of the ailing Comrade Marchais hung over the congress as a symbol of the party's past. A chapter in the party's history was over, and a clutch of senior figures resigned, for reasons of age, policy differences or expediency, from the policy-setting national bureau.

This was a congress shot through with ambiguities. Held in a cavernous hall beneath the futuristic arch of La Defense, it was attended by more than 1,000 delegates, many of them sporting Karl Marx beards, Lenin goatees and Mao jackets straight out of the party's glory days. Unsmiling doormen preferred the black-clad Che Guevara look.

Everyone sat at long tables arranged in a huge square, designed to foster a spirit of "free discussion". By Friday afternoon, they were barely beyond the "Preamble", voting page by page, with yellow party cards lifted high in the air. It was back to basics in a big way. "What is meant by the term `working class' in the hi-tech age?" But the votes were easy: overwhelming victories for Mr Hue and the "modernists".

The result is a policy document described as "realistic" or "Janus-like", depending who is speaking. The party continues to recognise the need for "class struggle", but will tolerate capitalist (private) money to help out the public sector. It opposes the Maastricht treaty and the single currency, but favours "European construction". It would take part in a Socialist government, but objects to key planks of the Socialists' policies on social matters and on Europe.

With an eye on its real opponents for the workers' vote - the extreme- right National Front - the party presents itself as France-centred and protectionist compared with the Socialists. The dominant colour at the congress was yellow (the colour often adopted by the National Front). The red flag was barely to be seen: just a corner on the congress banner, balanced by a tricolour; proceedings concluded with the Marseillaise and the Internationale - in that order.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore