|Politics of France
Constitution of France
Parliament; Government; President
Although its electoral support has declined in recent decades, it retains a large membership (behind only that of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP)) and considerable influence in French politics: two presidencies of "conseil général", 186 seats in regional parliament, about 800 mayors. It is one of the most influential parties behind the Socialist Party and the Union for a Popular Movement. It remains the largest party in France advocating communist views.
Founded in 1920, it participated in three governments: in the provisional government of the Liberation (1944–1947), at the beginning of François Mitterrand's presidency (1981–1984) and in Plural Left's cabinet led by Lionel Jospin (1997–2002).
It was also the largest French left-wing party in a number of national elections, from 1945 to the 1970s, before falling behind the Socialist Party (PS) in the 1980s. It has lost further ground to the Socialists since that time.
Since its participation in François Mitterrand's government, it has sometimes been considered by the far left to be a social democratic party. It supports alter-globalization movements although it may sometimes also criticize them (in particular their lack of organization).
After a poor performance in the 2007 legislative election, the party did not have, for the first time since 1962, the minimum level of 20 deputies needed to form a parliamentary group by itself. The PCF then allied itself with the Greens and other left-wing MPs to form a parliamentary group to the left of the Socialist Party, called Gauche démocrate et républicaine (Democratic and Republican Left).
It is a member of the European Left party.
Tensions within the Socialist Party had emerged in 1914 with the start of the First World War, which saw the majority of the SFIO take what left-wing socialists called a "social-chauvinist" line in support of the French war effort. At the Tours congress of the SFIO in 1920, the left-wing faction (Boris Souvarine, Fernand Loriot) and the center faction (Ludovic Frossard, Marcel Cachin) had agreed to join the Third International, and consequently to fulfill the 21 conditions imposed by Vladimir Lenin. They obtained 3/4 of the votes of the representatives and split away to form the Section Française de l'Internationale Communiste (SFIC). Nevertheless, the majority of the elects and MPs was reluctant towards the principle of the "democratic centralism", written in Lenin's conditions, and remained in the SFIO.
The founders of the SFIC took with themselves the party paper L'Humanité, founded by Jean Jaurès in 1904, which remained tied to the party until the 1990s. The newly created party, later renamed Parti Communiste Français (PCF), was three times larger than the SFIO (120000 members). Ho Chi Minh, who would create the Viet Minh in 1941 and then declare the independence of Vietnam, was one of the founding members.
At first the PCF rivalled the SFIO for leadership of the French socialist movement, but many members were expelled from the party (including Boris Souvarine), and within a few years, its support declined; for most of the 1920s it was a small and isolated party. Its first elected deputies were opposed to the Cartel des gauches ("Left-wing coalition") formed by the SFIO and the Radical-Socialists. The first Cartel governed from 1924 to 1926.
The Communist Party attracted various intellectuals and artists in the 1920s, including André Breton, the leader of the surrealist movement, Henri Lefebvre (who would be expelled in 1958), Paul Éluard, Louis Aragon, etc.
The PCF was the main organizer of a counter-exhibition to the 1931 Colonial Exhibition in Paris, called "The Truth about the Colonies". In the first section, it recalled Albert Londres and André Gide's critics of forced labour in the colonies and others crimes of the New Imperialism period; in the second section, it opposed "imperialist colonialism" to "the Soviets' policy on nationalities".
The second Cartel des gauches was elected in 1932. This time, although the PCF did not take part in the coalition, it did support the government without participating in it (soutien sans participation), in the same way that before World War I (1914–18) the socialists had supported the Republicans and the Radicals' governments without participating. This second Cartel fell following the far-right 6 February 1934 riots, which forced president of the Council Édouard Daladier to pass on the power to conservative Gaston Doumergue. Following this crisis, the PCF, as the whole of the socialist movement, feared that a fascist conspiracy had almost succeeded. Furthermore, Adolf Hitler's access to power in 1933 and the destruction of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) following the 27 February 1933 Reichstag fire and Stalin's new "popular front" policy led the PCF to get closer to the SFIO. Thus, the Popular Front was prepared, and got elected in 1936.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the following Great Depression, which affected France in 1931, caused much anxiety and disturbance, as in other countries. As economic liberalism failed, new solutions were being looked for. The technocracy ideas were born during this time (Groupe X-Crise), as well as autarky and corporativism in the fascism movement, which advocated union of workers' and employers. Some socialist members became attracted to these new ideas, among whom Jacques Doriot. A member of the Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Comintern from 1922 on, and from 1923 on Secretary of the French Federation of Young Communists, later elected to the French Chamber of Deputies, he came to advocate an alliance between the Communists and Social Democrats. Doriot was then expelled in 1934, and with his followers. Afterwards he moved sharply to the right and formed the Parti Populaire Français, which would be one of the most collaborationist parties during Vichy.
During the 1930s the PCF grew rapidly in size and influence, its growth fuelled by the popularity of the Comintern's Popular Front strategy, which allowed an alliance with the SFIO and the Radicals to fight against fascism. The Popular Front won the 1936 elections, and Léon Blum formed a Socialist-Radical government. The PCF supported this government but did not join it. The Popular Front government soon collapsed under the strain of domestic (financial problems, including inflation) and foreign policy issues (the radicals were against an intervention in the Spanish Civil War while the socialists and communists were in favour), and was replaced by Édouard Daladier's government.
On August 12, 1936, a party organization was formed in Madagascar, the Communist Party (French Section of the Communist International) of the Region of Madagascar.