Communist Party, French

(Parti communiste français (PCF))
   The Parti communiste français (PCF), or French Communist Party, was founded in 1920 under the name Section française de l'Internationale communiste (SFIC), becoming officially the Parti communiste—section française de l'Internationale communiste in 1922. The rallying of the socialists during World War I to the policies of the Union sacrée of Raymond poincaré (cabinet of rené viviani, August-September 1914), the failure of the Second International, the consequences of the long and imprudent war (especially in 1917 when mutinies and strikes occurred), and finally the victory of the Russian Revolution and the coming to power of the Bolsheviks led to a severe crisis within the socialist movement (see socialist party). After the founding by Lenin of the Third International (1919), the SFIO at first decided to leave the Second International (Congress of Strasbourg, February 1920); then the majority of its representatives favored joining the Communist International and formed the SFIC. Accepting the Marxist-Leninist theory of the proletarian revolution and supporting the Bolsheviks, the Communists would develop a tightly structured party (local cells, departmental sections and federations, central committee in which the political bureau formed the executive body, general secretariat), whose official organ was l'humanité. After initial success in the 1924 elections (26 seats), the French Communist Party lost in later electoral contests (1928, 1932), abandoning its relative isolation to fight against the efforts of the extreme right and rising fascism. The PCF (and its secretary-general maurice thorez) allied with the SFIO (1934), leading to the formation of the Front populaire, and, after the elections of 1936, supported the government of léon blum and worked for the reunification of the confédération générale du travail (CGT). On the eve of World War II, the refusal of the party to disavow the German-Soviet non-aggression pact (August 1939) provoked a strong reaction (dissolution of communist organizations by the cabinet of Edouard dal-adier). During the Occupation, the communists played a determining role in the resistance (Francs-Tireurs et Partisans français [FTPF], clandestine press). During the unifying of the resistance network, the Communists were represented on the Conseil national de la Résistance and in the provisional government in Algiers. With Liberation, the PCF became one of the leading French political groups and had great success in the 1945 elections. Entering the government along with representatives of the Mouvement républican populaire (MRP) and the socialists (tripartism, 1945-47), the Communist ministers, who had fought for nationalization of the major businesses and industries, the creation of Social Security, and an increase in the public sector, were excluded from the cabinet formed in May 1947 by paul ramadier because of the cold war between East and West and France's pro-American foreign policy (which supported the Marshall Plan and NATO). Becoming the opposition party, the PCF benefited from a relatively stable electoral base (a little more than 20 percent of the vote), in spite of anticommunist campaigns and the defection of a part of the French Left after the Soviet interventions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia (1968). The PCF then tried after 1965 to end its isolation and in 1972 signed with the Socialist Party a common governmental agreement. After the breakup of this leftist coalition (Union de la gauche) in 1978, and the election of François Mitterrand (1981), the PCF had approximately 700,000 members (secretary-generals: waldeck-rochet, then georges marchais) and four ministers in the government (1981-84). Since 1981, there has been a continuous and serious electoral decline. Besides internal dissent, the PCF had to confront the additional problem of the collapse of communism in eastern Europe and its own identity crisis, which led it to abandon in 1994 (national secretary: robert hue) the organizational principle of democratic centrism.

France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.

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