Young, Socialists and Enthusiasts: What We Forgot to See in La Rochelle

Young Socialists at La Rochelle this summer. Photo: Jean-Jacques Thomas

There is another side to the rallies at La Rochelle, often forgotten by the media. It is the side that belongs to the activists. These people whose names we may not know often consider these rallies as a celebration of their common ideals, and, at the same time, as a way to renew an ideological communion.

To gain insight into this aspect of the rallies, La Jeune Politique interviewed Morgane Le Mée, member of the young socialists political group, the Mouvement des Jeunes Socialistes (MJS).

During Jean-Marc Ayrault’s speech before the young socialists, Morgane chose to post on twitter the words of the Prime Minister: “We made the choice for a  society which does not give up its youth . . . Let’s not be afraid to take a new step towards progress!”

Morgane and her socialist friends showed how enthusiastic they really were, contradicting the bitter journalists or political commentators who said that nothing happened in La Rochelle. In the hunt for striking words from party leaders, the journalist often forget the real purpose of these rallies – gathering all the volunteers, activists and supporters of the party. As Morgane said, they “like going to La Rochelle because it is an important time in our life as activists. We are together, PS and MJS, at the same spot.”

During the four-day rally, the young militants inform themselves, initiate dialogue, question the party dogmas and draw up their future propositions. That’s why, according to Morgane “it’s a really great time to train ourselves . . . we meet a lot of really interesting people who come from everywhere in France so we can exchange between people from the cities and people from the country, between young people and less young ones. We have debates and workshops [to listen to] qualified speakers.”

Morgane found it very interesting that those speakers could come from civil society and did not necessarily belong to the party. It was one of the many reasons why Morgane was so satisfied with this rally.

She acknowledged that this year’s rally could be nothing but special for the party since Hollande’s victory. One thing was obviously different this year: it was ministers, and not mere leaders of the party who spoke to the militants. According to Morgane: “We managed to better understand the policy they are pursuing and the vision they had of their ministry and their work with the other members of the Government.”

Morgane gave the example of a debate about education, when Nadjat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister of Women’s Rights, and Vincent Peillon, Minister of Education, explained the links between their ministries.

She also elaborated on the independence of the PS from the President and his Government. Morgane said that it was one of the main issues, “I don’t think that they’re totally independent from one another.  [However,] François Hollande is no longer a PS activist like before since he is the President of all the French. And because of that, it is important that he doe not come to the PS meetings anymore like before, as Nicolas Sarkozy used to do with his party.”

According to Morgane, the sensitive issue of party independence concerns every active supporter of the PS, regardless of status within the party. All of them want the PS to remain a force and do not want it to follow mindlessly the Government’s plans. For those socialists, the worst would be to play the same role that they believe the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), Sarkozy’s party, did for the previous government.

They want to remain in the field.” One thing seems to scare them more than everything: to turn into, as Morgane said, “a minister of propaganda” for the government, “as the UMP did it for five years under Nicolas Sarkozy.”

For the whole socialist party, Hollande’s victory is anything but taken for granted.

For the youngest members especially, being a socialist is a challenge more than ever and Hollande’s presidency leaves them everything to prove.

For more interviews of young socialist activists, see Inside the Campaign: Victory and Disenchantment Among the Young Socialists.

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