Politician Sandrine Rousseau poses during a portrait session in Paris, France on 03/25/2023. (Photo by Eric Fougere/Corbis via Getty Images)


French Left ‘unity’ debate descends into chaos


The atmosphere turned toxic at a meeting of representatives from the French Greens party and the hard-left La France Insoumise (LFI) party over the weekend as they discussed assembling a unified list ahead of European elections.

Many in the audience started booing and heckling when Greens MP Sandrine Rousseau and MEP Marie Toussaint were talking.

The theme of the debate was “Can the Nupes [the former New Ecological and Social People’s Union party alliance] overcome its differences on European issues?” The question referred to a possible all-encompassing left-wing cooperation effort.

But Greens party leaders decided they would make their election case on their own, much to the dismay of some in the LFI.

The jeering and booing was so loud, it made what Marie Toussaint, the MEP who leads the Greens list in the next European elections, was saying hard to hear. Some people were heard yelling “unity”.

“Are we going to talk or not? Can I speak to you or not?” she demanded, visibly annoyed.

“Adding tumult to tumult will not help us be heard better,” she said, adding that the Left “will never become the majority without gentleness”.

“I take the boos with a smile because I want to respond with love,” she said.

Later she stated on Twitter, now X: “[There were] moments of truth and frank explanations of our differences, even amid boos. Sometimes gentleness is a struggle. But respecting our diversity is the path to victory. Thank you for the invitation.”

Rousseau also faced LFI anger, despite the fact she is an advocate for a combined list on the Left.

She said her party would not change its position, though, and hit back at LFI leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, lamenting his “domination”.

Booed and hissed during her speech, Rousseau became increasingly irritated. “Keep booing me and I’ll go home, and then we’ll say that nobody can debate with La France Insoumise, not even Sandrine Rousseau,” she said.

In the legislative elections of France in 2022 the Left did work together under Nupes, an electoral alliance including La France Insoumise (LFI), the Socialist Party (PS), the French Communist Party (PCF), Europe Ecology – The Greens, Ensemble! and Génération.s, plus smaller partners.

They achieved some significant success but the parties within the alliance did not want to form a combined group. The idea of a united Left has resurfaced as the parties are now quite divided and fragmented, which many feel only helps their opponents in the centre and on the Right.

The next European Parliament election is scheduled to be held on June 6 to 9, 2024.