Communism in France

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Communism has been a part of French politics since the early 1900s at the latest and has been described as "an enduring presence on the French political scene" for most of the 1900s.[1]

In 1920, the French Section of the Communist International was founded.[2] This organization went on to become the French Communist Party (Parti communiste français, PCF). Following World War II, the French Communist Party joined the government led by Charles de Gaulle before being dropped by the coalition.[citation needed] From November 1946 to 1956, the French Communist Party won more votes than any other party in French national elections.[citation needed] After 1956, their share of the vote gradually declined.[citation needed]

In addition to the French Communist Party, there are and have been other French Communist political parties.

Early modern period[edit]

During the early modern period in Europe, various groups supporting communist ideas appeared. In the 18th century, the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau in his hugely influential The Social Contract (1762) outlined the basis for a political order based on popular sovereignty rather than the rule of monarchs.[3] His views proved influential during the French Revolution of 1789 in which various anti-monarchists, particularly the Jacobins, supported the idea of redistributing wealth equally among the people, including Jean-Paul Marat and Gracchus Babeuf. The latter was involved in the Conspiracy of the Equals of 1796 intending to establish a revolutionary regime based on communal ownership, egalitarianism and the redistribution of property.[4] However, the plot was detected and he and several others involved were arrested and executed. Despite this setback, the example of the French Revolutionary regime and Babeuf's doomed insurrection was an inspiration for radical French thinkers such as Henri de Saint-Simon, Louis Blanc, Charles Fourier and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who declared that "property is theft!"[5]

By the 1830s and 1840s, the egalitarian concepts of communism and the related ideas of socialism had become widely popular in French revolutionary circles thanks to the writings of social critics and philosophers such as Pierre Leroux and Théodore Dézamy, whose critiques of bourgeoisie liberalism led to a widespread intellectual rejection of laissez-faire capitalism on both economic, philosophical and moral grounds.[6] Importantly, Philippe Buonarroti, one of Babeuf's co-conspirators, survived the crackdown on the Conspiracy of the Equals and went on to write the influential book Babeuf's Conspiracy for Equality first published in 1828.[6] Buonarroti's works and teachings went on to inspire early Babouvist communist groups such as the Christian communist League of the Just in 1836 led by Wilhelm Weitling which would later be merged with the Communist Correspondence Committee in Brussels.[7] This merger of the two groups in 1847 formed the Communist League, headed by German socialist labour leader Karl Schapper, who then that same year tasked two founding members, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, to write a manifesto laying out the principles of the new political party.[8]

19th century[edit]

During the latter half of the 19th century, various left-wing organisations across Europe continued to campaign against the many autocratic right-wing regimes that were then in power. In France, socialists set up a government known as the Paris Commune after the fall of Napoleon III in 1871, but they were soon overthrown and many of their members executed by counter-revolutionaries.[9]

20th century[edit]

In Europe, front organizations were especially influential in France which became the base for Communist front organizer Willi Münzenberg in 1933.[10]


Eurocommunism, a revisionist trend in the 1970s and 1980s within various Western European communist parties, was especially prominent in France. They claimed to be developing a theory and practice of social transformation more relevant for Western Europe. During the Cold War, they sought to undermine the influence of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rural Communism in France, 1920-1939". Department of History.
  2. ^ "French Communist Party | political party, France". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  3. ^ David Priestland (2010). The Red Flag: Communism and the Making of the Modern World. Penguin. pp. 5–7.
  4. ^ David Priestland (2010) The Red Flag: Communism and the Making of the Modern World. Penguin. pp. 18–19.
  5. ^ Service (2007:16–17)
  6. ^ a b Paul E Corcoran; Christian Fuchs (25 August 1983). Before Marx: Socialism and Communism in France, 1830–48. Palgrave Macmillan UK. pp. 3–5, 22. ISBN 978-1-349-17146-0.
  7. ^ Franz Mehring, Karl Marx: The Story of His Life. Edward Fitzgerald, trans. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1936; pg. 139.
  8. ^ Christian Fuchs (23 October 2015). Reading Marx in the Information Age: A Media and Communication Studies Perspective on Capital. Routledge. p. 357. ISBN 978-1-317-36449-8.
  9. ^ Service (2007:28).
  10. ^ Julian Jackson, The Popular Front in France (1990) p. x.
  11. ^ Richard Kingsley, ed., In Search of Eurocommunism, (Macmillan, 1981).