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The French Communist Party

Marc Lazar


The French Communist Party (Parti communiste français, PCF) experienced a most striking evolution in the period spanning the 1940s to the late 1970s. On the momentum gained during the interwar period and owing to its active participation in the resistance, the PCF, along with its Italian counterpart, emerged after World War II and for years to come as one of the most powerful communist parties in Western Europe. Its power resided in its organization, its numbers, the prestige of its secretary-general, Maurice Thorez, its place in the international communist movement, its impact on the national political system, its firm grounding in French society and its influence among the intelligentsia and in the cultural sphere. Its importance also stemmed from its rooting in France, a major European power and member of the UN Security Council, boasting a vast colonial empire that soon faced aspirations for independence. These geostrategic factors were all fundamental in a world dominated by the confrontation between the Soviet bloc and the Atlantic alliance. Despite various vicissitudes, moments of waning strength, phases of isolation, internal crises and even the repression it suffered, for nearly three decades its power seemed virtually unshakeable and its position deeply entrenched. But at the end of this period, within the space of a few years, the PCF underwent a complete upheaval: serious electoral setbacks, a swift erosion of its support base, a severe decline in membership, a weakening of its apparatus, a fading of its influence and a loss of its aura. This political, social and cultural regression revealed a surprising vulnerability behind the imposing edifice it had constructed and the vigorous self-image it projected.


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hal-03208269 , version 1 (26-04-2021)



Marc Lazar. The French Communist Party. Norman Naimark; Silvio Pons; Sophie Quinn-Judge. The Cambridge history of communism, Cambridge University Press, pp.619 - 641, 2017, 9781107133549. ⟨hal-03208269⟩
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