Path: Table of Contents > Essay on Party Politics > Party 113
French Socialist Party, 113
Variables and Codes for 1950-1962
For the concepts and variables below, use these links to Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey:
Governmental Status
Issue Orientation
Goal Orientation
Organizational Complexity
Organizational Power
Organizational Coherence
Membership Involvement
The "ac" code is for "adequacy-confidence"--a data quality measure ranging from 0 (low) to 9 (high)
Party Name and Code number
French Socialist Party, 113, Parti Socialiste--Section Francaise de L'Internationale Ouvriere, SFIO

Institutionalization Variables, 1.01-1.06
1.01 Year of origin and 1.02 name changes
1920, ac5
0, ac9
It is standard practice to fix the date of origin of the French socialist party as 1905, when two antagonistic groups of socialistsone liberal-democratic and one revolutionary--were ordered to unite by the 1904 Congress of the Socialist International. The result was the socialist party, French section of the Workers' International. In the 1920 congress at tours, the majority voted to affiliate with the Comintern, and a clear majority of the members opted for reorganization as the Communist Party, French section of the communist international. This majority retained the party headquarters and its national daily newspaper, "L'humanite." In keeping with the conception of party origins employed in the ICPP project, the minority faction which continued to operate as the SFIO is considered as having founded a new party in 1920. There were no changes in its name subsequently through the end of our period, although its designation as the French section of the workers" international is clearly outdated.
1.03 Organizational Discontinuity
9, ac9
A minor split occurred in 1948, when the Trotskyist socialist youth movement was expelled from the party. A major split occurred in 1958, when the party's secretary-general, Guy Mollet, decided to support Degaulle. Some prominent socialists, including Mayer, for mer secretary-general of the party, broke away to for m the Parti Socialiste Autonome (PSA), which in 1960 merged with other smaller leftist groups to for m the Parti Socialiste Unifie (PSU).
1.04 Leadership Competition
9, ac9
Guy Mollet was elected secretary-general in 1946, replacing Daniel Mayer who had held the post since 1944. Before the war, Leon Blum had been the outstanding leader of the socialist party. Mollet remained the socialist leader throughout our time period, but the leadership did change hands at least twice before 1950, and the changes occurred through election at the party congresses.
1.05 Legislative Instability
Instability is .26, , AC7
The socialists reached their low point of legislative representation in 1958, winning only 9 percent of the seats.
1.06 electoral instability
Instability is .06 , , AC9
The socialists consistently won about 15 percent of the vote in all four elections, 1951, 56, 58, and 62.

Governmental Status Variables, 2.01-2.07
2.01 government discrimination
0 for 1950-57, AC7
0 for 1958-62, AC9
The electoral law of 1951 worked against the Gaullists and the Communists, and the law of 1958 worked against the Communists. But these laws were backed by a coalition of parties and were intended more to obstruct the Gaullists and communists than to benefit any of the coalition parties behind the laws.
2.02 Governmental Leadership
2 out of 8 for 1950-57, AC9
0 out of 5 for 1958-62, AC9
Mollet and Pineau were asked to try to form governments during our time period. Only Mollet, who also failed on two occasions, was successful, serving as premier from February, 1956, to June, 1957. His 16 months in office was the longest a government lasted during the fourth republic.
2.03 Cabinet Participation
4 out of 8 for 1950-57, AC9
1 out of 5 for 1958-62, AC9
Socialists were in the government during 1950-51 and 1956-58. The rest of the time found them in opposition to most governments formed during the fourth republic. The socialists only narrowly voted to invest Degaulle as premier at the close of the fourth republic and did not participate in the government under the fifth republic during our time period.
2.04 National Participation
6 for 1950-57, AC6
6 for 1958-62, AC5
According to 1956 sample survey data, these four regions of France--Paris and north, west, east, and center/south-- contributed to the SFIO vote in relatively close approximation to their proportions of the population. The average deviation of support across these four regions was 4.8 percentage points.
2.05 Legislative Strength
Strength is .17 for 1950-57, ac8 and .09 for 1958-62, , AC6
The socialists reached their low point of legislative representation in 1958, winning only 9 percent of the seats.
2.06 electoral strength
Strength is .15 for 1950-57, ac9 and .14 for 1958-62, AC8
The socialists consistently won about 15 percent of the vote in all four elections, 1951, 56, 58, and 62.
2.07 Outside Origin
8, ac9
According to our view of the socialist party being formed by the minority of the erstwhile socialists in 1920 who refused to change into the Communist party, the party was formed by leaders of a major legal organization.

Issue Orientation Variables, 5.01-5.15
 5.01 Ownership of Means of Production
5 for 1950-62, AC9
Collective ownership of the means of production was a consistent and prominent policy of the socialists throughout our time period, with roots in a declaration of principle adopted in 1946.
5.02 Government Role in Economic Planning
4 for 1950-62, AC7
Government intervention in the economy is central to Marxism. While accepting a controlled economy, the socialists on occasion voiced concern over economic restrictions imposed by the government.
5.03 Redistribution of Wealth
1 for 1950-62, AC9
Socialist concern with redistribution of wealth was focused largely on reFOrming the tax structure to make it more progressive and aid lower income families.
5.04 Social Welfare
5 for 1950-62, AC9
Socialists were vocal and active in supporting extended social security benefits, public housing, and social welfare programs generally.
5.05 Secularization of Society
3 for 1950-62, AC9
Anti-clericalism within the party showed consistently on state financial aid to private schools, which the socialists opposed.
5.06 Support of the Military
0 for 1950-62, AC9
The long-run socialist position is for a reduction in armaments, but the party supports military expenditures in the short run to defend against the soviet military threat.
5.07 Alignment with East-West Blocs
3 for 1950-62, AC8
The socialists backed France's entry into NATO and definitely sided with the west, but there was some support for rapprochement with the soviet union.
5.08 Anti-colonialism
1, ac7
By ideology, the socialists were inclined toward colonial disengagement. By politics, however, the socialists found themselves involved in governments fighting the indo-china war and repressing the rebellion in Algeria. Mollet as premier, in fact, took a hard line on reprssion of the rebels in on the other hand, a socialist government produced the major legislative reFOrm act for overseas territories which granted additional powers for self-government. Further evidence of the schism and ambivalence within the party on anti-colonialism can be seen in the 1959 party split over the Algerian policy. One source states that socialists were radicals on colonial policy in opposition but standpatters in office.
5.09 Supranational Integration
3 for 1950-62, AC9
The issue of European unification produced some divisions within the socialist party, but the party position was in favor of eventual European union. Indeed, there was support for the u.n. to evolve into a world
government of sorts.
5.10 National Integration
3 for 1950-62, AC3
With the compartmentalization of socialist support in peripheral areas of France, the socialists have developed reasons for favoring some local autonomy of municipalities.
5.11 Electoral Participation
5 for 1950-62, AC3
Universal adult suffrage apparently was accepted as a latent policy position of the party.
5.12 Protection of Civil Rights
5 for 1950-62, AC9
Socialist belief in equality was well-advertised.
5.13 Interference with Civil Liberties
2 for 1950-62, AC5
Although socialists argued for civil liberties, serious infringement of press freedom occurred during Mollet's government in the midst of the Algerian crisis.
5.14 / 5.15 us--soviet experts left-right ratings
Us says 3, non-communist left
soviets say 3, socialist and democratic

Goal Orientation Variables, 6.01-6.55
6.00 Open Competition in the Electoral process
4 for 1950-62, AC9
The socialists had a major role in creating the fourth republic and participated in its party politics as a pro-system party, although
it often voted in opposition to particular governments. While the socialists
were not unanimous in accepting the new constitution for the fifth republic,
the socialist congress voted to support the referendum by more than a 2/3
majority. Throughout our time period, the party relied on conventional
electoral tactics to contest elections--advertising on mass media, advertising through printed posters and signs, occasionally canvassing voters, and frequently holding public meetings.
6.10 Restricting Party Competition
0 for 1950-62, AC9
The SFIO took no action to suppress rival parties, but it did figure conspicuously in the formation of electoral alliances in an attempt to defeat candidates of both the left and right, with the communists drawing most of their fire in the first part of our time period and the unr opposed (in
Alliances with the PCF) in the 1962 elections. But the SFIO apparently did not engage in tactics of harassing rival candidates, party workers, or voters.
6.20 Subverting the Political System
0 for 1950-62, AC9
The issue of whether the SFIO should be a revolutionary organization or a participant in the democratic process was hotly debated within the party beFOre the second world war. Its social democratic nature was clearly established at the end of the war and the entrance into the fourth republic. There is no evidence that the party engaged in any acts of terror or sabotage or civil disruption during our time period.
6.30 Propagandizing Ideas and Program
6.31-- 1
FOr 1950-57, ac3 and 0 for 1958-62, ac3. The SFIO operated a party
Paper in the early 50"s, but it appears that they had to stop publication later in our time period.
6.32--0, ac5.
There is no eivdence that the SFIO operated party schools.
6.33--2, ac7.
The SFIO passed resolutions, but no reference is made to their content.
No inFOrmation.
6.50 Providing for Welfare of Party Members
There is no inFOrmation on SFIO social welfare activities.

Autonomy Variables, 7.01-7.05
7.01 Sources of Funds
7 for 1950-62, AC9
By far the bulk of the SFIO funds came from membership fees and contributions by socialist parliamentarians.
7.02 Source of Members
5 for 1950-62, AC6
The SFIO never developed links to the trade unions comparable to the British Labour party, and membership in the party was entirely direct.
7.03 Sources of Leaders
2 (sectors 03, 10), AC9
Some 64 percent of SFIO deputies elected at the 1956, 1958, and 1962 elections came from the education/scientific/professional sector of society, with 31 percent teachers. Another 16 percent were civil servants, coming from the government bureaucracy. These two sectors combined produce about 80 percent of the SFIO deputies.
7.04 Relations with Domestic Parties
4 for 1950-57, AC9
5 for 1958-62, ac9
Socialists entered electoral, Parliamentary, and governmental alliances in the first half of our time period, but in the second half, they only gave parliamentary support to debre's government, without participating in the cabinet.
7.05 Relations with foreign Organizations
3 for 1950-62, ac9
The SFIO, while still not really the French section of the Workers' International as its name implies, was an active participant in the Socialist International, founded in 1951 with the SFIO as a charter member. Of 45 members elected by the congress with majority voting, and a secretariat. formal provision is given for minority representation in the national congress and the executive committee.

Organizational Complexity Variables, 8.01-8.07
8.01 Structural Articulation
11 for 1950-62, ac9
The SFIO had four well-defined national organs--the National Congress composed of elected delegates from the departmental Federations with voting strength proportional to the federation membership, the national council composed of one member from each federation to make party policy between congresses, the executive committee consisting of 45 members elected by the congress with majority voting, and a secretariat. formal provision was given for minority representation in the national congress and the executive committee.
8.02 Intensiveness of Organization
4 for 1950-62, ac9
The basic organizational unit in the SFIO was the section, supposedly based on the commune, which is the smallest territorial unit in France. Of the almost 38,000 communes in France, more than 30,000 had fewer than 1,000 inhabitants. Because there were only about 8,000 sections in the SFIO, the geographical basis would appear to correspond with subdivisions of the about 500 electoral districts for parliamentary representation and to include somewhere between 1,000 and 50,000 voters as the modal size.
8.03 Extensiveness of Organization
5 for 1950-62, ac9
SFIO sections were scattered throughout France, presumably existing in every electoral district, although the 8,000 sections covered less than 1/3 of the almost 38,000 communes.
8.04 Frequency of Local Meetings
6 for 1950-62, ac8
local sections of the SFIO usually met monthly or fortnightly.
8.05 Frequency of National Meetings
4 for 1950-62, ac9
The national council of the SFIO met every 3 months, but the executive committee presumably met much more often.
8.06 Maintaining Records
5 for 1950-62, ac7
SFIO published some party propaganda, did not seem to maintain organized resources for research, and maintained lists of party members that were not considered especially accurate.
8.07 Pervasiveness of Organization
7 for 1950-62, ac9
Tthe socialists had some labor union affiliation, but it was a relatively minor one in comparison to the PCF and the MRP, which had links to the two strongest unions. The FO, Force Ouvriere, represented only about 15 percent of unionized workers, and SFIO control was relatively low over
The FO at that. Stronger affiliation probably existed with teachers" unions, but they were less important politically. The SFIO also had not met with much success in its youth program or its efforts to cultivate farmers' organizational support.

Organizational Power Variables, 9.01-9.08
9.01 nationalization of structure
5 For 1950-62, ac9
The SFIO was composed of sections organized into federations which sent delegates to the national congress and which were represented on the national council. The federations were quite important in the party structure, having proportional voting in the national congress according to federation membership.
9.02 selecting the national leader
7 For 1950-62, ac9
The national leader of the SFIO was the secretary-general, who was elected by the executive committee.
9.03 selecting parliamentary candidates
5, ac9
The selection of candidates was done by the local sections in an electoral district. These choices were ratified by the federations, but the federation rarely negated the section's choice.
9.04 allocating funds
2 for 1950-62, ac7
The major portion of SFIO funds was collected by the local sections, which bought membership cards from the federations which in turn bought cards from the naitonal headquarters. The sections returned only about half of the money received for selling cards to members. The federations return less than half of the remainder to the national headquarters.
9.05 formulating policy
5 for 1950-62, ac9
The annual national congress enacted party policy through a process that involved submission of motions in advance to the federations for discussion. The subsequent congress meetings often involved vigorous debate between federations of opposing views and even involved minority positions expressed within federations. The national council was empowered to make party policy between congresses.
9.06 controlling communications
5 for 1950-62, ac6
The executive committee of the SFIO appointed the editors of the party's newspapers, which included one national and two provincial papers, but the party press was not widely read.
9.07 administering discipline
4 for 1950-62, ac9
The executive committee, which had only 20
Parliamentarians out of a membership of 45, was empowered to expel deputies
From the party. In some cases, even departmental federations were disbanded,
But these more severe punishments were undertaken by the national council.
9.08 leadership concentration
3 for 1950-62, ac7
Guy Mollet, as secretary-general of the SFIO throughout our time period and since 1946, clearly was the most important leader of the party, but the SFIO was not a one man party. The executive committee exercised effective collective leadership over party activities, and was not merely a rubber-stamp for Mollet's personal wishes.

Coherence Variables, 10.01-10.06
10.01 legislative cohesion
96 for 1950-62, ac5
Of the 79 principal votes in the national assembly from 1950 through 58 reported in williams, crisis and compromise, only 8 showed a Rice index of cohesion less than 95. In general, then, the socialist deputies vote very much as a unit, although considerable division was displayed on a few issues.
10.02 ideological factionalism
2 for 1950-62, ac7
The SFIO has periodically experienced tensions between
Doctrinaire militants and the more opportunistic parliamentarians. While this conflict had ideological roots, it erupted mainly over questions of tactics or strategy, and thus is given clearest expression in variable number 10.05. But other forms of ideological disagreement can be seen in differing positions on economic reform versus nationalization of means of production.
10.03 issue factionalism
5, ac9
Foreign policy issues in particular provoked divisions within the Socialist party. While some occurred over German rearmament and the edc, the most enduring factions developed over the party's colonial policy. Large numbers of militants were ideologically opposed to colonialism but found themselves in a party which was involved in government fighting the Indo-China war and repressing a rebellion in Algeria. A group finally split from the party in 1958 over the Algerian policy.
10.04 leadership factionalism
0 for 1950-57, ac3
3 for 1958-62, ac8
During the first part of our time period, the SFIO seemed untroubled by challenges to Mollet's leadership. But beginning in 1957, he was challenged, unsuccessfully, by a small group led by Depreux and Verdier.
10.05 strategic or tactical factionalism
1 for 1950-57, ac8
6 for 1958-62, ac6
Most of the SFIO battles over how to compete against the communists were settled by 1951, with the enactment of the electoral law that discriminated against both Gaullists and communists.
Beginning in 1958, with the return of Degaulle to power, the tactical question of whether to support Degaulle as premier under the fourth republic and then the strategic question of supporting the constitution for the fifth republic so divided the party that the opposition wing split off, forming what was to eventually emerge as the unified socialist party, PSU.
10.06 party purges
0 for 1950-62, ac9
One might find instances of purges within SFIO before our time period, but the party did not attempt this means of mass purification after 1950.

Involvement Variables, 11.01-11.06
11.01 membership requirements
3 for 1950-62, ac9
Membership was determined by buying a membership card and paying dues, normally through the purchase of monthly stamps.
11.02 membership participation
3 for 1950-62, ac7
The SFIO seemed to be split between two classes of members - those who were only marginally involved by sporadic attendance at party functions and those who were more regularly involved in party meetings and activities.
11.03 material incentives
1 for 1950-62, ac3
While the SFIO's governmental status at the national level was not great enough to support party work through the distribution of influence or jobs, the socialists held many important positions on the municipal and cantonal levels.
11.04 purposive incentives
2 for 1950-62, ac3
Many of the SFIO militants seem possessed by socialist ideology, and the desire to effectuate socialist doctrine in the state was undoubtedly a great motivating force. Many office holders, however, were far more pragmatic in their approach to politics than most militants.
11.05 doctrinism
2 for 1950-62, ac7
There is a body of literature by Marx, Juares, Guesde, and Proudhon that party members continually refer to, but the interpretation of this literature varied and written doctrine did not always become party policy.
11.06 personalism
0 for 1950-62, ac5
During the era of Leon Blum before the war, personalism may have played some role in the motivation of SFIO militants. But even though Mollet held the leadership throughout our time period, it appears that he did not develop a charismatic hold over party militants.