French Communist Party
Although its electoral support has declined in recent decades, the PCF retains a strong influence in French politics, especially at the local level. In 2012, the PCF claimed 138,000 members including 70,000 who have paid their membership fees. This would make it the third largest party in France in terms of membership after the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and the Socialist Party (PS).
Founded in 1920 by the majority faction of the socialist French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO), 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 cabinet led by Lionel Jospin (1997–2002).
It was also once the largest French left-wing party in a number of national elections, from 1945 to 1960, before falling behind the Socialist Party in the 1970s. The PCF has lost further ground to the Socialists since that time.
- 1 History
- 2 Ideology
- 3 Elected officials
- 4 Internal organization
- 5 Popular support and electoral record
- 6 Publications
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
||It has been suggested that portions of History of the French Communist Party be moved or incorporated into this section. (Discuss)|
The PCF, in contrast to weaker and more marginal communist parties in Europe, is usually seen as a left-wing rather than far-left party in the French context. While the French far-left (LCR/NPA, LO) has refused to participate in government or engage in electoral alliances with centre-left parties such as the PS, the PCF has participated in governments in the past and still enjoys a de facto electoral agreement with the PS (mutual withdrawals, the common practice since 1962 and in 1934-1939). Nonetheless, some observers and analysts classify the PCF as a far-left party, noting their ideological proximity to other far-left parties.
In the 1980s, under Georges Marchais, the PCF mixed a partial acceptance of "bourgeois" democracy and individual liberties with more traditional Marxist-Leninist rhetoric. During this same period, however, the PCF - still run on democratic centralist lines - still structured itself as a revolutionary party in the Leninist sense and rejected criticism of the Soviet Union. Under Robert Hue's leadership after 1994, the PCF's ideology and internal organization underwent major changes.:174 Hue clearly rejected the Soviet model, and reserved very harsh criticism for Soviet leaders who had "rejected, for years, human rights and 'bourgeois' democracy" and had oppressed individual liberties and aspirations.:174 Today, the PCF considers the Soviet Union as a 'perversion' of the communist model and unambiguously rejects Stalinism. That being said, it has not attributed the failure of the Soviet Union as being that of communism, and it has tried to downplay the failure of Soviet socialism by saying that the failure of Soviet socialism was the failure of one model "among others", including the capitalist or social democratic models.:176–177 It also tried to downplay the PCF's historic attachment to Moscow and the Soviet Union.:176–177
Since then, the PCF's ideology has been marked by significant ideological evolution on some topics but consistency on other issues. Some of the most marked changes have come on individual rights and immigration. After having vilified homosexuality and feminism as "the rubbish of capitalism" in the 1970s, the PCF has evolved towards tolerance and now full support for both gay rights and feminism.:174 In the 1980s, the PCF supported reducing the age of consent for homosexual relationships and opposed attempts to repenalize homosexuality. In 1998, the PCF voted in favour of the civil solidarity pact (PACS), civil unions including homosexual couples. The PCF currently supports both same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption. On 12 February 2013, PCF deputies voted in favour of same-sex marriage and adoption rights in the National Assembly. However, one PCF deputy, Patrice Carvalho, voted against. The PCF also supports feminist movements and supports policies to further promote gender equality and parity.
On the issue of immigration, the PCF's positions have also evolved significantly since the 1980s. In the 1981 presidential election, Georges Marchais ran a controversial campaign on immigration which was harshly criticized by anti-racism organizations at the time. In 1980, the PCF's leadership had voted in favour of limiting immigration. The same year, Marchais supported the PCF mayor of Vitry-sur-Seine who had destroyed a home for Malian migrant workers; the PCF claimed that the right-wing government was trying to push immigrants into ghettos in Communist working-class cities. The Libération newspaper also alleged that PCF municipal administrations had been working to limit the number of immigrants in housing projects. Today, however, the PCF supports the regularization of illegal immigrants.
One consistency in the PCF's ideology has been its staunch opposition to capitalism, which must be "overcome" because, according to the PCF, the capitalist system is "exhausted" and "on the verge of collapse".:177 The PCF has interpreted the current course of globalization as a confirmation of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels's view on the future evolution of capitalism. The party feels that the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the Great Recession have further justified its calls to overcome capitalism.:177 However, the PCF has remained somewhat vague on how capitalism will be 'overcome' and what will replace it, placing heavy emphasis on utopic models or values.:178
The text adopted at the XXXVI Congress in February 2013 reiterated the party's call on the need to "overcome" capitalism, fiercely denounced by the PCF as having led to "savage competition", "the devastation of the planet" and "barbarism". It contrasts its vision of capitalism with its proposed alternative, described as an egalitarian, humanist, and democratic alternative. It emphasizes human emancipation, the development of "each and every one", the right to happiness and the equal dignity of each human being regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. The party further posits that such an egalitarian society is impossible within capitalism, which "unleashes domination and hatred".
- "Sharing the wealth and abolishing social insecurity" - banning market-based layoffs (licenciements boursiers) for companies which make profits, raise the minimum wage (SMIC) to €1,700, setting a maximum wage differential of 1 to 20 in all businesses, right to retirement with a full pension at 60, defending public services, stopping public sector spending cuts (RGPP), setting a maximum wage at €36,000, 35 hours workweek.
- "Reclaiming power from banks and financial markets" - changing the European Central Bank's policy to favour job creation and public services, controlling financial speculation, raising the capital gains tax and the solidarity tax on wealth (ISF), abolishing fiscal loopholes and previleges, taxing corporations' financial revenues, creating a 'public financial pole' to reorient credit towards jobs, innovation and sustainable development.
- "Ecological planning" - Nationalizing Électricité de France, Gaz de France and Areva to create a publicly owned energy sector, creating a national public water service, a new transportation policy promoting public transportation and taxing the transportation of non-vital merchandise.
- "Producing differently" - a new model of development and economic growth which respects the environment and individuals, redefining industrial priorities, new rights for employees, creating a Gross national happiness indicator.
- "The Republic, for real" - Reaffirming the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State, creating a ministry for women and equality, repealing the HADOPI law, regularizing illegal immigrants, opposition to the golden rule of fiscal balance, creating jobs in the public sector.
- "Convene a constituent assembly for the Sixth Republic" - convening a constituent assembly, repealing the 2010 local and regional government reform, proportional representation in all elections, reducing presidential powers and strengthening parliamentary powers, guaranteeing judicial and press freedom.
- "Repealing the Lisbon Treaty and creating another Europe" - repealing the Treaty of Lisbon, opposition to the European Fiscal Compact, proposing and adopting a new European treaty which would 'prioritize social progress and democracy', reforming the statutes of the European Central Bank.
- "To change the course of globalization" - withdrawing French troops from the war in Afghanistan, French withdrawal from NATO, recognizing the independence of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, creation of a Tobin tax to finance international development and cooperation, debt forgiveness for low-income countries.
- "Prioritizing human emancipation" - creating jobs in public education, spending 1% of GDP on arts and culture, doubling investment in research.
- The platform also supported same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption, voting rights for resident foreigners, euthanasia, and constitutional recognition of a woman's right to have an abortion.
- Deputies: Alain Bocquet, Marie-George Buffet, Jean-Jacques Candelier, André Chassaigne, Jacqueline Fraysse, Nicolas Sansu, Gaby Charroux, Patrice Carvalho (GDR Group)
- Senators: Éliane Assassi, Marie-France Beaufils, Michel Billout, Dominique Watrin, Annie David, Michelle Demessine, Évelyne Didier, Guy Fischer, Thierry Foucaud, Brigitte Gonthier-Maurin, Pierre Laurent, Gérard Le Cam, Cécile Cukierman, Isabelle Pasquet, Éric Bocquet, Mireille Schurch, Laurence Cohen, Christian Favier, Michel Le Scouarnec (CRC Group)
- MEPs: Patrick Le Hyaric, Jacky Hénin (EUL-NGL Group)
The PCF has traditionally been a "mass party", although Maurice Duverger had differentiated it from other mass parties because the PCF kept a tight control over membership and regularly purged dissenting members. In its heyday, the PCF maintained a large base of members and the party's political and electoral actions were supported in society by a trade union, the General Confederation of Labour (CGT); a newspaper, L'Humanité; and a large number of front organizations or associations in civil society which organized a large number of political or non-political social activities for PCF members.:166 One such activity which still exists today is the annual Fête de l'Humanité organized the L'Humanité. French and foreign left-wing parties, organizations or movements are represented and the activities feature musical performances.
Since the PCF's decline began in the 1970s, however, it has seen its membership base slowly dry up and its allied organizations disappear or distance themselves from the party. The PCF claimed 520,000 members in 1978; 330,000 in 1987; 270,000 in 1996; and 133,000 in 2002.:166 In 2008, the party claimed that it had 134,000 members of which 79,000 were up to date on their membership fees.:166 In the 2011 internal primary, 69,277 members were registered to vote and 48,631 (70.2%) did so.:166 The party likely has about 70,000 members as of today, but only about 40 to 50 thousand seem to actively participate in the party's organization and political activities.
According to studies by the CEVIPOF in 1979 and 1997, the makeup of the PCF's membership has also changed significantly since 1979. The most marked change was a major decline in the share of manual workers (ouvriers) in the party's membership, with a larger number of employees and middle-classes, especially those who work in the public sector.:175 The form of political action taken by members has also changed, with less emphasis on direct political or electoral action but a greater emphasis on social work and protests.
The party's structures were democratized at the 1994 Congress, dropping democratic centralism and allowing for the public expression of disapproval or dissent with the party line or leadership. The party's top posts, like that of 'secretary-general', were renamed (secretary-general became national-secretary). The party, since 2000, is now led by a national council, which serves as the leadership between congresses; and the executive committee, which is charged with applying the national council's decisions. The national-secretary is elected by delegates at the congress. Likewise, the national council is elected by list voting at every congress. A reform of statutes in 2001 has allowed "alternative texts" - dissent from the text proposed by the PCF leadership - to be presented and voted on; dissident lists to those backed by the leadership may also run for the national council.:170–171
The General Confederation of Labour (CGT) was dominated by the PCF after 1946, with all its leaders between 1947 and 1996 (Benoît Frachon, Alain Le Léap, Georges Séguy, Henri Krasucki, Louis Viannet) also serving in the PCF's national leadership structures. For years, the CGT and the PCF were close and almost indissociable allies - notably in May 1968 when both the CGT and PCF were eager for a restoration of social order and welcomed the Grenelle agreements. While the CGT has remained the largest trade union in France, it has taken its independence vis-à-vis the PCF. Louis Viannet spectacularly quit the national bureau of the PCF in 1996 and Bernard Thibault, the CGT's leader between 1999 and 2013, left the PCF's national council in 2001.
L'Humanité has retained closer ties with the PCF. The newspaper was founded by Jean Jaurès in 1904 as the socialist movement's mouthpiece, and it followed the communist majority following the split in 1920. After having been the official newspaper of the PCF, with a readership of up to 100,000 in 1945, the newspaper's readership and sales declined substantially partly due to the PCF's concomitant decline. In 1999, the mention of the newspaper's link to the PCF was dropped and the PCF no longer determines its editorial stance. It sold an average of 46,929 newspapers per day in 2012; down from 53,530 in 2007.
Secretaries-general (1921–1994) and national-secretaries (since 1994)
- Ludovic-Oscar Frossard: 4 January 1921 - 1 January 1923
- Louis Sellier and Albert Treint, interim secretaries-general: 21 January 1923 - 23 January 1924
- Louis Sellier: 23 January 1924 - 1 July 1924
- Pierre Semard: 8 July 1924 - 8 April 1929
- Collective secretariat (Henri Barbé, Pierre Celor, Benoît Frachon, Maurice Thorez): 8 April 1929 - 18 July 1930
- Maurice Thorez: 18 July 1930 - 17 May 1964 (president between 17 May and his death on 11 July 1964)
- Jacques Duclos, interim secretary-general: 17 June 1950 - 10 April 1953
- Waldeck Rochet: 17 May 1964 - 17 December 1972 (deputy secretary-general from 14 May 1961 to 17 May 1964)
- Georges Marchais, interim secretary-general later deputy secretary-general from June 1969 to 17 December 1972
- Georges Marchais: 17 December 1972 - 29 January 1994
- Robert Hue: 29 January 1994 - 28 October 2001 (president between 28 October 2001 and 8 April 2003)
- Marie-George Buffet: 28 October 2001 - 20 June 2010
- Pierre Laurent: 20 June 2010 -
There are no formal organized factions or political groupings within the PCF. This was originally due to the practice of democratic centralism, but even after the democratization of the PCF structure after 1994 the ban on the organization of formal factions within the party remained. According to party statutes, the PCF supports the "pluralism of ideas" but the right to pluralism "may not be translated into an organizations of tendencies". Nevertheless, certain factions and groups are easily identifiable within the PCF and they are de facto expressed officially by different orientation texts or lists for leadership elections at party congresses.
- Majority: The current leadership of the PCF since 2003 around Marie-George Buffet and Pierre Laurent, the party majority supports the continued existence of the PCF but with the need for internal transformations. Vis-à-vis the PS, the PCF leadership has taken a more autonomous stance but it still sees the PS as a potential electoral partner (in runoff elections or in local elections) and even as a potential governing partner. The leadership has been generally strongly supportive of the Left Front alliance with other parties, which it sees as a "new Popular Front" as a culmination of its attempts, undertaken since 2003, to broaden the PCF's base to social movements, associations, unions and other left-wing or far-left parties.
- Orthodox: The heterogeneous faction of PCF "orthodox" refers to those traditionalist members who opposed the mutation of the 1990s and wish to return to Marxist-Leninist fundamentals. The orthodox faction opposes electoral alliances or governing coalitions with the PS, and it has also proven fairly lukewarm to the Left Front and has often been critical of Jean-Luc Mélenchon's influence over the FG and his 2012 candidacy. Unlike the majority which supports European integration under the form "social Europe" or "another Europe", the orthodox wish to withdraw from the European Union and the Eurozone. Prominent orthodox factions and leaders include Jean-Jacques Karman's Communist Left, Emmanuel Dang Tran's PCF section in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, André Gerin, Alain Bocquet and Patrice Carvalho. The PCF orthodox factions has strong support in the old PCF federations in northern France (Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Somme, Seine-Maritime) or other federations such as the Meurthe-et-Moselle, the Haute-Saône, Aisne and Tarn.
- Some orthodox communists have chosen to leave the PCF. In 2004, the FNARC group around Georges Hage founded the small Pole of Communist Revival in France (PRCF). Maxime Gremetz was sidelined from the PCF in 2006, after major disagreements with the leadership, and has since founded a small political movement (Anger and Hope, Colère et espoir) active only in his native Picardy. A group of hardline orthodox around former PCF senator Rolande Perlican founded the Communistes party.
- Novateurs (also known as 'conservatives'): The novateurs are a small faction led by supporters of Georges Marchais' old political line - traditional Marxism adapted to modern circumstances, as developed by PCF economist and historian Paul Boccara (who developed the idea of state monopoly capitalism). Leaders of the faction include Nicolas Marchand and Yves Dimicoli.
- La Riposte: La Riposte is a political association within the PCF which is the French section of the International Marxist Tendency, a Trotskyist entryist organization. They are ideologically close to the orthodox faction on rejecting alliances with the PS or a return to Marxist fundamentals but they differ significantly from the orthodox faction in their severe condemnations of Stalinism and the later Soviet Union. They also support the Left Front.
- Huistes: The allies of former secretary-general Robert Hue (1994–2001) have mostly left the PCF. Hue's leadership was marked by internal democratizations as part of his mutation, but also close cooperation and alliances with the PS. The Huistes tend to be the most supportive of electoral and government alliances with the PS. Hue remains, technically, a member of the PCF; but he has broken with the current leadership. As a senator, he sits in the European Democratic and Social Rally (RDSE) and leads a small political movement, the Progressive Unitary Movement (MUP) which has one deputy elected in 2012 with PS support and who sits with the Radical Party of the Left (PRG) group in the National Assembly. The MUP supports the creation of a broad alliance with the PS, the Greens (EELV), the PRG and even some centrists. Besides Hue, some of prominent followers include Jean-Claude Gayssot, Jack Ralite or Ivan Renar.
- Refondateurs/Rénovateurs: The reformist faction of the PCF, known either as refondateurs or rénovateurs, has mostly left the PCF today, but they played an important role in the PCF's internal politics for decades and they continue to be closely associated to the PCF through the Left Front. The reformist faction, ideologically aligned with the New Left, eurocommunism, ecosocialism, feminism and democratic socialism, has long been at odds with the PCF's leadership. Under Marchais, they opposed the traditionalist Marxist and pro-Soviet direction of the party and chafed at the party's democratic centralism.
- Many dissident Communist reformists supported Pierre Juquin's candidacy in the 1988 presidential election, alongside 'red-green' ecosocialists, the remnants of the Unified Socialist Party (PSU) and the LCR. PCF dissidents who had backed Juquin's candidacy, including former cabinet ministers Marcel Rigout and Charles Fiterman participated in the foundation of the Convention for a Progressive Alternative (CAP) in 1994, which has since obtained limited support only in a few departments. Jean-Pierre Brard, the CAP's sole parliamentarian until his defeat in 2012, sat with the PCF in the National Assembly.
- Reformists who remained within the PCF, such as Patrick Braouezec, François Asensi and Jacqueline Fraysse, opposed Hue and Buffet's leadership: they did not support the PCF's presidential candidates in 2002 and 2007, and they clamored for the re-foundation of the PCF as part of a broader left-wing movements including left-wing Greens, ecosocialists, the far-left, social movements and left-wing associations. Despite the creation of the Left Front, the reformists led by Braouezec left the PCF in 2010 and joined the small Federation for a Social and Ecological Alternative (FASE) which is now a component of the Left Front.
Preparatory votes on 'orientation texts' for PCF Congresses since 2003
|Faction||XXXII (2003)||XXXIII (2006)||XXXIV (2008)||XXXVI (2013)|
At the XXXIV Congress in 2008, for the election of the national council, the majority's list won 67.73% from the congress' delegates against 16.38% for Marie-Pierre Vieu's huiste list backed by the refondateurs, 10.26% for André Gerin's orthodox list and 5.64% for Nicolas Marchand's novateur list.
Popular support and electoral record
Currently, the PCF retains some strength in suburban Paris, in the Nord section of the old coal mining area in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the industrial harbours of Le Havre and Dieppe, in some departments of central France, such as Allier and Cher (where a form of sharecropping existed, in addition to mining and small industrial-mining centres such as Commentry and Montceau-les-Mines), the industrial mining region of northern Meurthe-et-Moselle (Longwy) and in some cities of the south, such as the industrial areas of Marseille and nearby towns, as well as the working-class suburbs surrounding Paris (the ceinture rouge), Lyon, Saint-Étienne, Alès and Grenoble. The PCF is also strong in the Cévennes mountains, a left-wing rural anti-clerical stronghold with a strong Protestant minority.
Communist traditions in the "Red Limousin", the Pas-de-Calais, Paris proper, Nièvre, Finistère, Alpes-Maritimes and Var have been hurt significantly by demographic changes (Var, Alpes-Maritimes, Finistère), a loss of voters to the Socialist Party due to good local Socialist infrastructure or strongmen (Nièvre, Pas-de-Calais, Paris) or due to the emergence of rival parties on the radical left (the Convention for a Progressive Alternative, a party of reformist communists, in the Limousin and Val-de-Marne).
There exists isolated Communist bases in the rural anti-clerical areas of southwestern Côtes-d'Armor and northwestern Morbihan; in the industrial areas of Le Mans; in the shipbuilding cities of Saint-Nazaire, La Seyne-sur-Mer (there are no more ships built in La Seyne); and in isolated industrial centres built along the old Paris-Lyon railway (The urban core of Romilly-sur-Seine, Aube has elected a Communist general councillor since 1958).
During the course of the Twentieth Century, the French Communists were considered to be pioneers in local government, providing not only efficient street lighting and clean streets, but also public entertainment, public housing, municipal swimming pools, day nurseries, children’s playgrounds, and public lavatories. In 1976, for instance, the Communist mayor of Sarchelles, Henri Canacos, was named “best mayor in the Paris region” by Vie Publique (a trade periodical for urban planners and administrators) for enriching Sarchelles’ public spaces with new restaurants, movie theatres, cafes, more parks, a large shopping mall, and better transportation. Education also became, in the words of one text, an “identifiable characteristic of Communist government at the local level.” A study of municipal budgets that was completed in 1975 (but using data from 1968) found that while Communist local government spent 34% less that non-Communist Left governments and 36% less than moderate-Right governments for maintenance, it nevertheless spent 49% more than moderate Right governments and 36% more than non-Communist Left governments for education and educational support.
|Election year||Candidate||1st round||2nd round|
|# of overall votes||% of overall vote||# of overall votes||% of overall vote|
|1981||Georges Marchais||4,456,922||15.35 (#4)|
|1988||André Lajoinie||2,056,261 (#5)||6.76|
|1995||Robert Hue||2,638,936||8.66 (#5)|
|2002||Robert Hue||960,480||3.37 (#11)|
|2007||Marie-George Buffet||707,268||1.93 (#7)|
|2012||Jean-Luc Mélenchon (as Left Front candidate)||3,985,089||11.10 (#4)|
|Election year||# of 1st round votes||% of 1st round vote||# of seats||% of seats||Seats|
|Election year||Number of votes||% of overall vote||# of seats won|
The PCF publishes the following:
- Communistes (Communists)
- Info Hebdo (Weekly News)
- Economie et Politique (Economics and Politics)
Traditionally, it was also the owner of the French daily L'Humanité (Humanity), founded by Jean Jaurès. Although the newspaper is now independent, it remains close to the PCF. The paper is sustained by the annual Fête de L'Humanité festival, held in La Courneuve, a working class suburb of Paris. This event remains the biggest festival in France with 600,000 people during a three days festival.
During the 1970s, the PCF registered success with the children's magazine it founded, Pif gadget.
- List of foreign delegations at 24th PCF Congress (1982)
- Place du Colonel Fabien
- Louis Althusser's Reading Capital (1965)
- MRAP anti-racist NGO, created in 1941
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to French Communist Party.|
- PCF home page
- Communistes home page
- Info Hebdo home page
- Economie et Politique home page
- L'Humanité home page
- Communist Party of France at Marxists Internet Archive