From an article by David Lawday in the August issue of The Atlantic:

When a French Communist went to London not long ago to meet Eric Hobsbawm, a leading British Communist intellectual, he was astonished to be taken to dinner at the elite Athenaeum Club. Not that the Frenchman spends all his time back in Paris in the plastic canteen of the Party's bunkerlike headquarters, near the Gare du Nord. Communists like to feast as well as the next man in France. It was just that he was surprised to have his preconceptions about British communism so roundly confirmed. "A real club," he says in wonder. It should be noted that Hobsbawm, a historian, admits to being seized with anguish these days over the beliefs he has long promoted. Membership in a once predominantly working-class British Party that has sustained him politically has shrunk to a dazed 7,000.

On national television just before the evening news the French are accustomed to seeing an imperious frog impersonating President Mitterrand. This is part of a puppet show satirizing top politicians. Jacques Chirac, the conservative leader, is a vulture, Georges Marchais a pig and so on. The strange thing is that the Marchais pig comes over as the most amiable of the animals. Unlike the others, he is devoid of menace. This reflects the party's impotence. The puppet show makes the Communists objects of jolly popular sympathy, almost of pity. According to one liberal school of thought in France, the country would do well to hang on to these defanged Communists, because many of the low-income voters who are deserting them are going straight to Jean-Marie Le Pen's extreme right-wing National Front, which is a greater danger to political stability. Yet the French Communists are a dogmatic bunch. They seem to have put themselves on automatic pilot for destruction.