France's de-industrialization in the mid-1970s was catastrophic for the proletarian communities of the Parisian banlieue. By the 1980s, the effects of prolonged unemployment were apparent, with high rates of voter abstention and growing support for the Front national. In the summer of 1989, writer François Maspero and photographer Anaïk Frantz spend a month wandering through former Communist bastions—the banlieue rouge—to take stock of this political shift. While the chronicle of their journey, Les Passagers du Roissy-Express (1990), has attracted much scholarly interest, its reflections on the legacy and decline of municipal Communism have gone largely undiscussed. As I show, however, Les Passagers presents the social problems of the banlieue primarily in terms of a collapse of political horizons. Having long been involved in anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist activism, Maspero intimately experiences the implosion of the radical left during the Mitterrand years. Les Passagers documents his attempt to work through it. Written against the backdrop of the brutal suppression of pro-democracy protests in China and the first signs of the coming dissolution of the Soviet Union, Les Passagers demonstrates a rare sensitivity to the complex, shifting relationships between state and municipal Communism, and between local party politics and an ethical culture of solidarity. This article examines the contribution that Les Passagers makes to a more nuanced understanding of the history of the French left.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 380-393
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.