Guy Mollet

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Guy Mollet (1959)
Erich Ollenhauer , Yosef Almogi and Guy Mollet, Haifa 1960

Guy Mollet (born December 31, 1905 in Flers ( Normandy ), † October 3, 1975 in Paris ) was a French statesman and socialist politician and Prime Minister of the Fourth Republic of France from 1956 to 1957 . From 1946 to 1969 he was party leader of the French Socialists.


Mollet was the son of a textile worker, trained in Le Havre and then became an English teacher in Arras . Politically, he had worked in the CGT trade union since 1923 and for the socialist party Section française de l'Internationale ouvrière (SFIO), whose secretary for the northern Pas-de-Calais department he became in 1928. In 1932 he became general secretary of the French teachers' association.

During the Second World War he was first captured by Germany in 1940 and after his release in 1942 he joined the Resistance . In 1944 he became mayor of Arras and in 1945 he was a member of the Constituent National Assembly . In 1946 he became general secretary of the SFIO, which ruled in a three-party coalition with communists and Christian democrats until 1947 and was able to provide the first president of the Fourth Republic in the person of Vincent Auriol . In the Léon Blum government , Mollet was given a prominent role with the post of State Minister. Under René Pleven he was European Minister from 1950 to 1951 and then Deputy Prime Minister of Henri Queuille . Mollet represented France in the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe from 1949 to 1956 , from 1954 to 1956 he was President of the Council of Europe and chaired the European Socialists in the Council of Europe. 1951 to 1969 he was Vice President of the Socialist International (SI). As a member of Jean Monnet's Action Committee for the United States of Europe and a determined Atlanticist, he advocated France's accession to the European Defense Community (EDC), a project that was definitively abandoned in 1954 but which contributed to the deep division of the SFIO.

Before the early parliamentary elections of January 1956, a coalition of the "Front républicain" was formed, which included Mollet and Pierre Mendès France as spokesman for the left wing of the Radical Party, François Mitterrand and Jacques Chaban-Delmas , with the support of the PCF . In addition to the social and economic modernization of France, they sought peace in Algeria . President René Coty appointed Mollet head of government on January 31, 1956, although it was widely expected that Mendès-France would receive the contract. But Coty assumed that both the communists and the Christian Democratic People's Republicans (MRP) would tolerate Mollet more than the former head of government whom they had jointly brought down.

Confronted with the violent hostility of the population of European origin during a visit to Algiers (February 6, 1956), he preferred to campaign for a policy of repression and rejected any negotiated solution with the Algerian independence movement before a ceasefire . Within six months he doubled the troops effectively stationed there. Mollet had his troops systematically commit war crimes in the form of summary shootings, the wiping out of Algerian villages and torture . This practice became known as the " French Doctrine " and led to considerable domestic and foreign policy protests. The Guy Mollet cabinet took over the demand for a third week of paid leave, the “vignette” for financing elderly poor people and the measures for housing construction. In March 1957 the ministers Christian Pineau and Maurice Faure signed the Treaty of Rome , which sealed the European Economic Community (EEC).

Before that - during a visit to London in September 1956 - Prime Minister Guy Mollet made a completely different proposal to his British colleague Anthony Eden : According to British government archives, Mollet was considering a political union with Great Britain and was apparently also prepared to make the British Queen head of state do. Alternatively, he also offered the French Union (which then also included the French territories of Africa that had become independent in 1960) to join the Commonwealth of Nations . Both advances were discarded and slumbered in the files for decades. A document dated September 28, 1956, which was only resurfaced in 2006, records a conversation between Eden and Cabinet Secretary Sir Norman Brook, in which France was to join the Commonwealth. Ultimately, the discussions did not lead to anything, and all plans disappeared into the drawers.

Domestic political events soon faded into the background when, on the one hand, the situation in Algeria worsened and, on the other hand, the nationalization of the Suez Canal by the Egyptian head of state Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Suez crisis created a new trouble spot. France reached an agreement with Great Britain and Israel according to which Israel attacked Egypt and France and Great Britain, under the guise of mediation, occupied the Suez Canal with their troops in order to permanently control it and eliminate Nasser. The protests of the USA and the Soviet Union against this action forced the invaders to give in quickly. However, while British Prime Minister Anthony Eden had to resign, Mollet was able to maintain himself as head of government despite criticism from the left, so that with a term of 16 months he headed the fourth republic's longest-running cabinet .

While the decolonization of Morocco and Tunisia had already begun before he took over government, Mollet finally fell in June 1957 over the plan to finance the increase in the military budget for waging the Algerian war through tax increases. In the following year he supported de Gaulle's efforts to reform the constitution - not least due to the events in Algeria ; Immediately before the establishment of the Fifth Republic , de Gaulle brought Mollet into his cabinet, where he was again Minister of State. There he took part in the deliberations on the new constitution. However, he resigned in 1959 to protest against tax and financial policy.

In the 1960s, Mollet remained head of the SFIO, which, however, increasingly threatened to be marginalized. In 1965 he supported the presidential candidacy of Francois Mitterrand , who was not an SFIO member, against General de Gaulle. In the 1969 presidential election, he advocated supporting the center candidate Alain Poher against the Gaullist Georges Pompidou , but the socialists posed his inner-party adversary Gaston Defferre , the mayor of Marseille , who accepted a bitter defeat with only five percent of the vote had to. In 1969 Mollet resigned as party leader, and in 1971, at the Congress of Épinay-sur-Seine , the Parti socialiste français (PS) was re-established under the leadership of Mitterrand. Then Mollet devoted himself to theoretical work for the Office universitaire de recherches socialistes (University Institute for Socialist Research).



  • Les chances du socialisme. Fayard, Paris 1968.
  • May 13, 1858 - May 13, 1962. Plon, Paris 1962 ( Tribune libre. 63).


  • "Dramatic consequences" - if the Algerian war continues. Why France's Socialists Say YES to the Algeria Referendum; Interview with Guy Mollet, Secretary General of the SFIO. In: Social Democratic Press Service. December 28, 1960.
  • France and the Defense of Europe. A French socialist view. In: Foreign Affairs. Volume 32. 1953/1954, ISSN  0015-7120 , pp. 365-373.


  • François Lafon : Guy Mollet. Itinéraire d'un socialiste controversé. Fayard, Paris 2006, ISBN 2-213-62921-8 .
  • Denis Lefebvre: Guy Mollet. Le mal aimé. Plon, Paris 1992, ISBN 2-259-02465-3 .
  • Denis Lefebvre: L'Affaire de Suez. Édition Leprince, Paris 1996, ISBN 2-909634-13-2 (Synthèse).
  • Denis Lefebvre: Guy Mollet face à la torture en Algérie. Édition Leprince, Paris 2001, ISBN 2-909634-38-8 .
  • Bernard Ménager (ed.): Guy Mollet, un camarade en République. Presses universitaires de Lille, Lille 1987, ISBN 2-85939-335-8 (Politiques).

Web links

Commons : Guy Mollet  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Christiane Kohser-Spohn, Frank Renken (ed.): Trauma Algerian War: For the history and processing of a taboo conflict. Campus, 2006, ISBN 3-593-37771-3
predecessor Office successor
Edgar Faure Prime Minister of the Fourth Republic
February 1, 1956 - May 21, 1957
Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury