French Communist Party
Published 23rd February, 2012
The French Communist Party or PCF was founded in 1920 when the French Section of the Worker’s International (SFIO) split into two factions, one of which became the PCF. The party describes itself as far-left and believes in Communism.
In the early days it had representation in all the parliaments. In 1924 they won 26 of 581 seats in the French National Assembly. That dropped to 11 in 1928 and 10 in 1932. Their fortunes improved somewhat in 1936 when they won 72 seats in a 610 seat parliament, but throughout the 1930s they grew in size and popularity.
During the Second World War the PCF played an active role within the Resistance Movement.
The big moment for the PCF came in 1945 and 1946, just after the war. In 1944 they had joined Charles de Gaulle’s provisional government and remained there in 1945 when they won 148 of 522 seats. But 1946 was their most successful election. They won 153 of 586 seats in the June Constituent National Assembly and went up to 182 of 627 seats in the November election for the French National Assembly. In the November they became the largest party in parliament; the one and only time they were to achieve this result to date.
American concerns about a possible Communist takeover of France meant that in 1947 the party was forced to go into opposition in order to secure Marshall Plan aid from the United States.
From this point on the PCF would never achieve such good results and their fortunes were one of a steady decline to the end of the century. They did have two further periods in government; the first under François Mitterrand between 1981 and 1984 and again in the government of Lionel Jospin between 1997 and 2002.
Nevertheless their fortunes continued to fall; in 1951 they dropped to 103 seats, a slight rise in 1956 took them to 150 seats but this was false dawn as they dropped to 10 seats in 1958 at the start of the Fifth Republic. They slowly climbed their way back up over the next four elections, to reach 86 seats in 1978.
Then it became a decline to 44 seats in 1981, 35 seats in 1986, 27 seats in 1988, 24 seats in 1993 and so on until in 2007 they managed just 15 seats in the 577 seat French National Assembly. At this point the party did not have enough seats to form a parliamentary group (20 seats are required) and so they allied themselves with the Greens and other small left wing groups to form the Democratic and Republican Left within the National Assembly.
The French Communist Party has two of the 74 national seats in the European Parliament where they are part of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left. The PCF is also a member of the Party of the European Left.