Parti communiste français

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Parti communiste français
Communist Party of France
PCF logo
Fabien Roussel
National Secretary Fabien Roussel
speaker Cécile Cukierman
Ian Brossat
founding December 1920 (SFIC)
1921 (PC-SFIC)
1943 (PCF)
Place of foundation Tours
Headquarters 2, Place du Colonel Fabien
75019 Paris
Youth organization Mouvement des Jeunes Communistes Français (MJCF) (Independent and independent organization from the party)
newspaper L'Humanité
L'Humanité Dimanche
La Terre
Alignment communism
Colours) red
National Assembly 2017
senate 2017
Number of members 47,349 (as of 2019)
International connections International meeting of communist and workers' parties
European party Tbsp
EP Group GUE / NGL

The Parti communiste français ( PCF , German Communist Party of France ) has 138,000 members and is the communist party in Western Europe with the largest number of members . It is present in French local politics with 10,000 elected in 500 municipalities.

The PCF was founded in 1920 at the party congress in Tours after the breakup of the Section française de l'Internationale ouvrière (SFIO, German- French section of the Workers' International ). The official party newspaper was for a long time the newspaper L'Humanité , which nevertheless retained its structural independence. The party's headquarters are on Place du Colonel Fabien in Paris in a concrete building designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer .

The CGT trade union, which used to be closely associated with the party , has now become more independent of the PCF in terms of organization and content.

The PCF was involved in French governments several times, for example after François Mitterrand's election victory in 1981. Together with the Italian PCI , between the early 1970s and the late 1980s the PCF was one of the most important representatives of the - recognizing the pluralistic democratic structures of Western democracies. Stream of Eurocommunism , and thus distinguished itself in essential structural, but also in some content-related points, from the communist parties of the systems of Eastern Europe, which were then called real socialist .

Party history

The beginnings

As heir to the Paris Commune in 1871, the PCF grew alongside the PCI to become the most important party of this orientation in Western democracies. Their political weight was mainly at the expense of social democratic currents. Until 1984 they could not form a government without the support of the communists and, due to their fragmentation, only attained a political significance in France that corresponds to that of democratic and left-wing parties in other European states.

Within the SFIO , reactions to the alliance with Raymond Poincaré at the outbreak of war in 1914 were divided. During the war, tensions within France increased to mutinies and strikes in the period up to the Russian October Revolution in 1917. In March 1919 the Communist International (Comintern) was founded, which led to a break within the French movement. At a party congress in Strasbourg in February 1920 it was decided to leave the organization of the Socialist International for the time being. At the subsequent party congress in Tours in December of the same year, the majority of the representatives, under the influence of Charles Rappoport and Boris Souvarine , spoke out in favor of a connection to the Comintern and founded the Section française de l'Internationale communiste (SFIC, German: French section of the Communist International ), which became the Communist Party of France in 1922.

Influence of the International Communist Movement

Soviet postage stamp featuring Maurice Thorez (1965)

The beginnings of the party were accompanied by violent quarrels within the movement. In the same year they led to the exclusion of numerous members and leaders who were viewed as opportunists. After an initial election victory in 1924, the party's popularity fell as a result of Stalinization and reached a low point in 1932. This was followed by a decline to 25,000 members and poor election results. The General Secretary of the PCF, Maurice Thorez , maintained close contacts with Josef Stalin . In the following period, the dependence on the instructions of Moscow increased. This change in political orientation was also noticeable at the party base. Gradually the following changed, the previously dominant middle class (teaching staff, journalists, doctors, etc.) was increasingly replaced by young workers. The ties to the Soviet party also took on an economic dimension when, from 1950 onwards, the PCF recorded several million francs annually in incoming payments from it.

Many of the intellectuals who had previously sympathized with the PCF turned away from the party in the process of Stalinization, such as the surrealists André Breton and Benjamin Péret , who both joined Trotskyist groups at least for a time , as well as the writer André Gide .

Antifascism and Front Populaire

The fight against fascism , from which heroes of the Resistance such as Gabriel Péri or Guy Môquet emerged , is probably the most successful chapter in the party's history. However, the party's positions on this issue have not always been clear.

Originally, when Benito Mussolini , then Adolf Hitler's seizure of power , was looming, fascism was viewed as the ultimate form of capitalism and imperialism . The socialists were viewed as traitors to the working class, namely because the German Social Democrats fought the Spartacus League in January 1919 in the service of reaction ( social fascism thesis ).

Jacques Doriot , General Secretary of the Communist Youth, opposed this policy . He was expelled from the party in June 1934. He is also known for later founding a movement that stood out for its support for the fascist regime and its anti-communist orientation, which is likely to be related to this experience.

Ironically, his assessment of the situation was adopted by Josef Stalin, who was concerned about the glorification of Adolf Hitler. The party congress that sealed Jacques Doriot's expulsion was even extended by a day to allow Maurice Thorez to present the new policy of unified approach aimed at unifying leftist currents and a radical reversal of instructions from Moscow .

As a result, the movement became patriotic. The criticism of French colonialism, which had a certain relevance in the 1920s, now became secondary. In terms of domestic politics, however, the new orientation made alliances possible that were previously unthinkable - such as the merger with the SFIO and the Parti radical under the name Front populaire . He won the 1936 elections. In the municipal council elections that followed, the communists also succeeded in convincing several Parisian working-class suburbs of their policies. Thanks to a more social than political orientation of its work in these communities, the PCF was able to maintain the loyalty of these bastions of power, known as the Banlieue Rouge or Ceinture Rouge (Red Belt), until the 1980s.

Opposed to the spontaneous general strike in 1936, the PCF subsequently supported the new government without participating in it. The PCF strengthened the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War in favor of the Republican government.

In October 1938, the Communists were the only party to oppose the Munich Agreement , which was supposed to seal the break-up of Czechoslovakia and from which the Soviet Union was deliberately excluded.

The news of the signing of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact on August 24, 1939 with secret clauses, which provided for the division of Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe , caused a shock. On the part of the French government, the pact led to the severance of diplomatic relations with Moscow and the ban on the communist party organs L'Humanité and Soir on August 26th.

Outbreak of war and party ban

In continuation of its patriotic popular front policy, the party initially spoke out in favor of a war against Germany, but in September 1939 received instructions to the contrary from the Comintern headquarters in Moscow. The war was not described as a fight against fascism, but as a confrontation between capitalist-imperialist states, and the PCF should change its position accordingly. The ban on the party until the end of September 1939 prevented them from effectively implementing their goals. At the same time, the Comintern's call was used by the government to justify taking action against alleged communist saboteurs and defeatists. However, the actual extent of the sabotage of the French defense efforts is estimated to be extremely small.

In the underground crowded and in the absence of its most important leaders, who have been mobilized as soldiers or as Maurice Thorez had fled to the Soviet Union, the activists of the party went through a phase of disorientation.

In response to the report by the French news and advertising agency Havas about an alleged speech by Josef Stalin to the Politburo on August 19, 1939, the latter stated in an article in the Soviet daily Pravda on November 30, 1939 :

“This report from the Havas agency is, like many of their other reports, gossip of lies. Of course, I cannot know in which café-chantant this lying talk was fabricated. But however much the gentlemen in the Havas agency may lie, they cannot deny that

  1. that Germany did not attack France and England, but that France and England attacked Germany and thus assumed responsibility for the present war;
  2. that Germany will submit peace proposals to France and England after the start of the fighting, and that the Soviet Union openly supported these peace proposals from Germany because it is of the opinion and will continue to believe that ending the war as soon as possible will decisively affect the situation of all countries and Peoples would be relieved;
  3. that the ruling circles of England and France have brusquely rejected both Germany's proposals for peace and the attempts of the Soviet Union to end the war as quickly as possible. That's the facts.

What can the café-chantant politicians from the Havas agency counter? "

After the defeat of France in June 1940, the communists unsuccessfully applied to the occupying power for the renewal of their party newspaper L'Humanité . At the same time, they actively participated in the Resistance with personalities such as Guy Môquet in Paris, Eusebio Ferrari in northern France and numerous others .

Resistance, post-war period and the beginning of the Cold War

With Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, the party was instructed to re-engage in the anti-fascist struggle, which also happened with great commitment. In 1944 the PCF took part in liberation from the German occupation alongside the Gaullists . The commitment and willingness to make sacrifices of the French communists within the Resistance, the courage of the Soviet soldiers and ultimately the victory of the Allies made the ambiguity of Soviet politics forgotten and raised the prestige of the movement to such an extent that it was included in the government of the national unity was included. In the elections to the National Assembly in 1946, the PCF emerged as the strongest party with 28.8% of the vote. With the attachment of the CGT union to the Soviet communists in 1945, the party's influence on the working class increased. On this basis, a communist counterculture developed , which aimed to include the population in all areas of their lives and as a result, for example, brought about the establishment of centers for collective vacation by communist communities. The work of labor priests , who made Catholics receptive to the ideology of the party , also fell into this epoch .

Many artists and intellectuals such as Louis Aragon , Paul Éluard , Yves Montand , Pablo Picasso , Henri Wallon or even Max Gallo and Jean-Paul Sartre were temporarily close to the party. At that time the PCF was fully involved in government work, and the struggle of its opponents was limited to a few right-wing extremist groups completely on the margins of society.

With the Marshall Plan and the beginning of the Cold War in 1947, the PCF saw itself pushed into an opposition role to the socialists of the SFIO, but nevertheless performed somewhat better in favor of the voters. The PCF also participated in groups such as the peace movement , where it stood up against the alleged imperialism of the US and its supporters in France.

In the aftermath of the struggle against the Vichy regime , the party saw itself as a patriotic movement. In this context, the party saw anti-Americanism as a protection against a new form of imperialism and the continuation of the fight against fascism. An anti-American foreign policy orientation of the party feeds on this source to this day.


Until Stalin's death on March 5, 1953, the PCF supported his regime unconditionally. In 1956, with the publication of the secret speech by Nikita Sergejewitsch Khrushchev in the spring and, increasingly after the suppression of the Hungarian people's uprising by Soviet troops in the autumn, doubts about the justification of the Stalinist policy, which for many previous Resistants should be linked to violent disputes, began. Initially, the party had difficulty rejecting Stalinism and following the new line of peaceful coexistence set by Khrushchev. Party leaders declined to examine Khrushchev's report. At the end of the 1950s, the structures of the PCF in the overseas territories broke away from the parent party. They founded their own parties, such as the Parti communiste guadeloupéen (PCG) in 1958 or the Parti communiste réunionnais (PCR) in 1959 .


After the death of Maurice Thorez in 1964, Waldeck Rochet took over the leadership of the party. Militant Orthodox Marxist-Leninist orientation, how Jacques Jurquet and Marcel Juliot the Stalinization refused and open to the policy of supporting China entered were excluded from the party. Thus, on the initiative of these circles, the first Maoist organization was founded in September , namely the Fédération des Cercles Marxistes-Léninistes de France (FCML). The PCF remained a Stalinist-Leninist cadre party for a long time , which was reflected above all in the party structures such as democratic centralism , the ban on factions, the formation of operational cells at the base, the party exclusions and the character of the party leadership.

Rather disturbed by the events of May 1968 , the PCF initially opposed the student strike movement and criticized the occupation of the universities. Even when workers joined the strike, the communists denied the general strike any revolutionary potential and refused to attend the meeting at the Charléty stadium. The PCF-affiliated trade union CGT also adopted this recommendation. In the summer of 1968, however, Waldeck Rochet expressed criticism of the repression of the Prague Spring . In the 1969 presidential elections, Jacques Duclos achieved an excellent result with 21.3% of the vote in the first ballot and achieved the best result of a communist in a presidential election in France ever.


Georges Marchais
Boardroom in the party building

Overall, the 1970s saw a trend towards a weakening of the party's reputation among the population. Contributing to this was the publication of Solzhenitsyn's The Archipelago Gulag (1974), whose image of Stalinism made an uncritical reception impossible and had fatal consequences for the party's public image. In order to assume the leading role in the left-wing party spectrum, a joint government program was signed with the Socialist Party in 1972 . However, the advantages of the alliance were only noticeable unilaterally in favor of the socialists, which is why the party leadership abandoned the joint program after six years.

In 1976 the PCF distanced itself from the line of Soviet communism and took a more eurocommunist direction, for example the term of the dictatorship of the proletariat was deleted from the party program. Nevertheless, as a result of events such as Georges Marchais ' public support for the intervention in Afghanistan by Soviet troops in 1979, there was a definitive break with the artists and intellectuals traditionally close to the movement. On the XXIII. At the party congress (May 9-13, 1979) the opening of the party came to an end for the time being: Party leader Marchais prevailed with his position that the political systems of real socialism prevailing in Eastern Europe were "fundamentally positive". There were no critical disputes and internal party critics like Jean Elleinstein were not even delegated to the party congress. There was a rapprochement with Soviet positions and the exclusion of some Eurocommunist-oriented members. These were almost exclusively journalists, writers or humanities scholars.


In 1981, following the electoral victory of the left under Mitterrand, the PCF was involved in the government of Pierre Mauroy , with Charles Fiterman as Minister of Transport, Anicet Le Pors as Minister of Public Service, Jack Ralite as Minister of Health and Marcel Rigout as Minister of Education. After the election promises of the nationalization of big industry and the banks had been fulfilled, the socialist finance minister Jacques Delors began an economic austerity course between June 1982 and March 1983 , after three consecutive devaluations of the currency had proven necessary and billions in capital and losses had led to a sharp rise in unemployment . It is against this background that the decision of the socialists not to stick to their economic and social reforms for fear of driving the French economy into isolation within Europe is to be understood. The reforms of the previous years have been partially reversed. As a result, in 1984 the PCF decided to leave the government to protest against the policies of the socialist government.

The criticism of the PCF, however, remained indefinable and without concrete projects, accompanied by profound internal divisions in the movement and as the result of a new phase of disintegration. The PCF, which had always supported communist orthodoxy, did not find a clear answer to the reform processes in the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev . This led to increasing internal disputes in which internal party critics such as Pierre Juquin were excluded from the party.


In 1994 Robert Hue took over the party leadership. Despite a steady decline in voter support in the 1970s and 1980s and the failure of socialism based on the Soviet model, which culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of real socialism in the former Eastern Bloc states, the influence of the PCF was nonetheless not negligible. Under Hue, orthodox communist positions such as democratic centralism were abandoned and a new dialogue with the internal party opponents of the party line took place. Hue's reform course and his condemnation of Soviet communism were not without controversy within the party; a minority of the party stuck to Marxist-Leninist positions.

His efforts were also directed towards a rapprochement with the social democracy in the form of the Parti socialiste within the framework of a strategic alliance, the Gauche plurielle , with the Parti socialiste and the Greens . In 1997 the party succeeded in bringing some personalities back into the government: Jean-Claude Gayssot as Minister of Transport and Housing, Marie-George Buffet as Minister of Sport and Michelle Demessine as State Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism.


Demonstration of the PCF 2005

At the 31st party congress in October 2001 Robert Hue was replaced as General Secretary by Marie-George Buffet . The disastrous results of the 2002 presidential and parliamentary elections put the party financially in an extremely precarious position, but the issue of bonds soon made it possible to overcome the deficit. There was also a noticeable recovery in public favor in the subsequent elections.

Under the influence of Buffet, an opening up of the party became noticeable, as candidates from the new social movements , for example from the milieu of globalization critics and the work of associations, were included in the lists in the regional elections in 2004 .

At the same time, in order to coordinate the activities of the opponents of capitalism, a meeting in Rome in May 2004 led to the establishment of a European Left . It should be noted that the PCF remains the strongest party in France in this respect, with 135,000 registered members. As part of the campaign of the opponents of a European constitution in the run-up to the referendum in 2005, the PCF played an important role and saw its future in a more radical left-wing forum than the social democrats of the Parti socialiste (PS), namely together with or in competition with the Trotskyists Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (LCR) and the critics of globalization.

After the founding of the Left Party by socialist dissidents at the end of 2008, both currents announced joint initiatives. On March 8, 2009, for example, the front de gauche for the European elections was presented. Both parties also worked together in the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections .

On June 20, 2010, Pierre Laurent was elected party chairman to succeed Buffet with 80.7% of the vote.

At its 36th Congress in February 2013, the PCF parted with its traditional symbols of hammer and sickle .

In the 2017 presidential election , the PCF did not nominate its own candidate. He supported Jean-Luc Mélenchon , the candidate of the rival left party La France insoumise . With 19.58% in the first ballot, Mélenchon achieved a respectable result, but still failed to make it into the runoff election.

In the parliamentary election that followed, the two parties could not agree on a common list, so the PCF ran separately. With only 2.49% (564,949 votes) the party landed in 10th place and experienced an all-time low. Due to the French majority vote, the PCF was able to send 11 MPs to the National Assembly (actually there were 12 MPs, but one MP joined the La France insoumise movement after the election ).

Today Saint-Denis is the only large city with over 100,000 inhabitants that is ruled by a PCF mayor.

Current trends within the party

On the political spectrum of the radical left, the PCF is faced with competition from parties like the Lutte Ouvrière and the LCR (or, since 2009, the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA)), without it being able to, on the side of the more moderate left to wrest votes from the Parti socialiste . Paradoxically, its role as a protest party is also being taken over by a right-wing extremist party, the Front National , which, according to its own statements, draws some of its supporters from working-class and former communist circles , which the PCF in turn strictly denies. Within the party, the PCF is characterized by a variety of opinions and currents of thought.

Currents associated with the party apparatus are not official, but can be clearly identified:

  • The supporters of the line of Marie-George Buffet (Buffistes) lead the party and defend the principle of an alliance with the Parti socialiste , but also with various opponents of globalization and social movements
  • The supporters of the line of Robert Hue (Huistes) defend the principle of alliance with the Parti socialiste within the framework of the Gauche plurielle .
  • Proponents of a renewal, Patrick Braouezec and Roger Martelli , critical supporters of the party leadership under Buffet, advocate a loose merger of the PCF with social movements and an opening of the party's lists to their supporters

These first three groups form the majority within the party.

  • The former supporters of the line of Georges Marchais (Marchaisiens) defend the principle of an autonomy of the party in relation to the Parti socialiste , but advocate a new union of the left in order to restore a balance within the alliance in favor of the PCF.
  • The Orthodox Communists of the regional organization of the Pas-de-Calais department .
  • The communist left behind Jean-Jacques Karmann , which initially stood in opposition to the party leadership, but gradually moved closer to the line of the party majority.

Presidential candidates

Before 1958, during the Fourth Republic , the president was elected by the deputies and senators of the National Assembly, and later by the parliament . On December 21st, a delegation of 80,000 electors took over this role. With the constitutional reforms for the Fifth Republic in 1962, the president was elected directly and generally by the people.

year candidate percent Age Mandate function
1924 Zéphyrin Camélinat 2.4% 84 years Former MP for the Seine department
1931 Marcel Cachin 1.1% 61 years Member of Parliament for the Seine department
1932 Marcel Cachin 1.0% 62 years Member of Parliament for the Seine department
1939 Marcel Cachin 8.1% 69 years Senator for the Seine department
1953 Marcel Cachin 12.1% 84 years Member of Parliament for the Seine department
1958 Georges Marrane 13.0% 70 years Member of Parliament for the Seine department
1965 Support for François Mitterrand
1969 Jacques Duclos 21.3% 72 years Senator for the 20th arrondissement of Paris
1974 Support for François Mitterrand
1981 Georges Marchais 15.4% 60 years Member of Parliament for the Val-de-Marne department
1988 André Lajoinie 6.8% 59 years Member of Parliament for the Allier department
1995 Robert Hue 8.6% 48 years Mayor of Montigny-lès-Cormeilles
2002 Robert Hue 3.4% 55 years Member of Parliament for the Val-d'Oise department
2007 Marie-George Buffet 1.9% 57 years Member of Parliament for the Seine-Saint-Denis department
2012 Jean-Luc Mélenchon ( Front de gauche ) 11.1% 60 years Member of the European Parliament
2017 Jean-Luc Mélenchon ( La France insoumise ) 19.6% 65 years Member of the European Parliament

Parliamentary elections

In France, the National Assembly is elected in two rounds according to the Romansh majority system. The only exception is the parliamentary election from 1986, which was based on proportional representation.

Share of votes by communists in elections since 1945
year be right percent Seats Parliamentary group
1958 3 882 204 18.9% 10 seats non-attached
1962 4 003 553 21.8% 41 seats Groupe communiste
1967 5 039 032 22.5% 71 seats Groupe communiste
1968 4,434,832 20.0% 33 seats Groupe communiste
1973 5 156 619 21.3% 73 seats Groupe communiste
1978 5,870,402 20.5% 86 seats Groupe communiste
1981 4,065,962 16.1% 43 seats Groupe communiste
1986 2 739 925 9.8% 35 seats Groupe communiste
1988 2,765,761 11.3% 25 seats Groupe communiste
1993 2,331,399 9.2% 22 seats Groupe communiste
1997 2,519,281 9.9% 34 seats Groupe communiste
2002 1 216 178 4.8% 21 seats Groupe communiste et republicain
2007 1 115 719 4.3% 15 seats Gauche démocrate et republicaine
2012 1,792,923 6.9% 10 seats * Gauche démocrate et republicaine
2017 615 556 2.72% 11 seats

* Commencement of election as Front de gauche, candidates for the PDF have 7 of the 10 seats in the parliamentary group.


See also

To summarize the short form of the history of the PCF, see also under Communist Party , the sub-articles there


  • Wolfgang Jäger : The Socialist Party and the Communist Party of France . In: Dieter Oberndörfer (Ed.): Socialist and Communist Parties in Western Europe. Publication of the social science research institute of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung . Volume 1: Südländer (= Uni-Taschenbücher . Volume 761). Leske + Budrich (UTB), Opladen 1978, ISBN 3-8100-0240-2 , pp. 35-132.
  • Selim Nadi: The French Communist Party and its attitude to social chauvinism and colonialism 1920 to 1936 , in: Arbeit - Bewegungs - Geschichte , Issue I / 2018, pp. 45–62.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Élections européennes, le PCF entre en campagne . La Croix on February 5, 2019.
  2. Figures on (French) , accessed on January 8, 2011
  3. Selim Nadi: The French Communist Party and its attitude to social chauvinism and colonialism 1920 to 1936 , in: Arbeit - Bewegungs - Geschichte , Issue I / 2018, pp. 45–62.
  4. ^ In: Sonntagsblatt zu Staatszeitung and Herold (New York), August 27, 1939, p. A3
  5. Tablot Imlay: Mind the Gap. The Perception And Reality of Communist Sabotage of French War Production During the Phoney War. In: Past and Present, No. 189, (Nov. 2005), pp. 179-234. Joel Blatt: The French Defeat of 1940. Reassessments. Berghahn Books: Oxford, 1998, ISBN 1-57181-226-1 , p. 141.
  6. Pravda: On a lying report by the Havas news agency , November 30, 1939. German translation after Viktor Suworow : Der Eisbrecher . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1989.
  7. See on this Michael Mayer : "Power sneaking on felt slippers". The Federal Republic, the GDR and the possible government participation of the Communist parties in France and Italy in the 1970s. ( Memento of November 28, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) In: Yearbook for Historical Research on Communism 2010, pp. 127–141.
  8. ^ Sylvia Zappi: Pierre Laurent élu à la tête du Parti communiste français. In: Le Monde . June 19, 2010, accessed July 11, 2017 (French).
  9. ^ Stefan Ulrich : Communists in France. Between hammer and anvil . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung of February 3, 2013.
  10. Ullrich Fichtner : Outside the door. DER SPIEGEL, June 11, 2016, pp. 105–107, here p. 107.