Le Discours du Communisme: Understanding the Decline of the French Communist Party in Paris during the 1978 French Legislative Elections through Image and Linguistics

Yakabe, Claire
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Accounting for the close proximity of France to the “Iron Curtain,” the strong Communist presence in twentieth-century French culture is unsurprising. After the Fifth Republic, however, French Communism steadily declined. The true beginning of the end came with the 1978 legislative elections, where the French Communist Party (PCF) lost their position as the premier left-wing party and the Socialist Party cut ties with the Communist Party, dismantling the former coalition. This thesis explores the diction and images found in articles and propaganda posters of 1978 in order to understand the views surrounding the PCF at this time, which will allow for a deeper understanding of the PCF’s waning support. Using Critical Discourse Analysis and semiotics, two unique, but interconnected discourses were analyzed: socialist and communist. French Communist and Socialist posters, as well as articles from the center-left newspaper Le Monde, and the communist newspaper l’Humanité were studied, focusing on the way in which the PCF was portrayed by these medias. The results paint a picture of an outdated, deluded political party rejected and ridiculed by the socialists. They had become a party unable to adapt to modern consumerist French society, instead clinging to traditional Bolshevik ideologies and ties. Undoubtedly, these views impacted the PCF’s downfall in the 1978 elections, which signaled a major shift in Left party politics; therefore, it is important to study political discourses and their interactions at this shift in order to better grasp how discourses reflect, but also influence, reality.
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