Path: Table of Contents > Essay on Party Politics > Party 115
French Communist Party, 115
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 Communist Party, 115, Parti Communiste Francaise

Institutionalization Variables, 1.01-1.06
1.01 Year of Origin and 1.02 Name Changes
1905, ac5
0, ac9
All sources indicate that the Communist Party of France was formed by members of the Socialist Party who at the Congress of Tours, December 1920, voted to accept Lenin's terms for joining the Third International. We have, however, fixed the date of origin instead at 1905, when the parent party was formed from a fusion of two previously antagonistic socialist groups. At the 1920 Congress, a substantial majority of the delegates chose to affiliate with the Comintern and a clear majority of the erstwhile socialist rank-and-file opted for membership in the emergent Communist Party. In keeping with the conception of party origin used in the ICPP project, the Communist Party is considered to be a direct extension of the Socialist Party founded in 1905, with a name change occurring in 1920. There have been no subsequent changes in the party's name during our period of interest.
1.03 Organizational Discontinuity
11, ac6
The two splits mentioned in the literature were the Herve-Lecoeur split of 1956 and the Tribune Group of 1958. Both were minor, involving no widespread defection from the party, and both were mentioned only once.
1.04 Leadership Competition
6, ac5
One source indicated that on more than one occasion in the 1920s, changes in party leadership were imposed by Moscow. The only other change indicated is that of bringing Thorez to power in 1936. Whether that is judged to be overt or covert, the majority of changes, those in the 1920s, were covert. The low adequacy confidence level is due to the reliance on one source.
1.05 Legislative Instability
Instability is .57, ac7
The PCF went from a high of 30 percent of the seats in 1950 to 2 percent in 1961. The electoral system worked to the party's disadvantage, returning far fewer seats in proportion to votes won.
1.06 Electoral Instability
Instability is .12, ac9
Data are for elections in 1950, 1951, 1956, 1958, and 1962. The party's electoral support fluctuated only between 28 and 19 percent of the vote, remaining relatively constant in comparison to its legislative representation.

Governmental Status Variables, 2.01-2.07
2.01 Government Discrimination
1, ac9
The electoral law was amended to permit electoral alliances in certain districts and deny PFC the benefits of PR for the 1951 and 1956 elections. Later, single-member districts used for run-off elections and Gerry Mandering worked against PFC.
2.02 Governmental Leadership
0 out of 8 for 1950-57, ac9
0 out of 5 for 1958-62, ac9
The Communist Party was never able to obtain leadership of the government.
2.03 Cabinet Participation
0 out of 8 for 1950-57, ac9
0 out of 5 for 1958-62, ac9
Since sharing in a tripartite relationship in the first year of the Fourth Republic (before our time period) the PCF has not participated (one source says by choice) in any government.
2.04 National Participation
5 for 1950-57, ac6
5 for 1958-62, ac5
Electoral results show PCF strength distributed throughout France with strongholds in certain areas.
2.05 Legislative Strength
Strength is .19 for 1950-57, ac7, and .03 for 1957-62,
The PCF went from a high of 30 percent of the seats in 1950 to 2 percent in 1961. The electoral system worked to the party's disadvantage, returning far fewer seats in proportion to votes won.
2.06 Electoral Strength
Strength is .26 for 1950-57, ac9, and .20 for 1958-62, ac9
Data are for elections in 1950, 1951, 1956, 1958, and 1962. The party's electoral support fluctuated only between 28 and 19 percent of the vote, remaining relatively constant in comparison to its legislative representation.
2.07 Outside Origin
9, ac8
The socialist groups that merged to form the Socialist Party in 1905, which was the predecessor of the Communist Party, were relatively minor in importance taken separately, but they were not illegal organizations.

Issue Orientation Variables, 5.01-5.15
5.01 Ownership of Means of Production
5, ac5
Although the PCF apparently favored a policy of nationalization, it also defended private property, suggesting some equivocation, perhaps for political purposes.
5.02 Government Role in Economic Planning
5, ac3
The literature did not specifically discuss the party's position on this issue, but it was inferred that the PCF favors a strong government role in economic planning from its position on other issues and its general programmatic approach.
5.03 Redistribution of Wealth
5, ac6
Party has advocated confiscation of land and redistribution to working peasants. It has also been concerned with unequal taxation from the standpoint of the workers.
5.04 Social Welfare
5, ac8
Advocates social security and a compulsory social welfare system.
5.05 Secularization of Society
3, ac6
The PCF program is strongly anticlerical. However, it is willing to cooperate with catholics in certain matters. We have judged this not as contradictory, but as a strong program greatly moderated in practice.
5.06 Support of the Military
3, ac6
Criticized military expenditures and supported a program of disarmament.
5.07 Alignment with East-West Blocs
5, ac9
The PCF supports and follows USSR foreign policy positions, is a persistent critic of the US, and advocates treaties with the USSR.
5.08 Anti-Colonialism
5 for 1950-57, ac7
3 for 1958-62, ac7
During the first part of our period, the party's score on anti-colonialism is based on its position toward the Indo-China war, which it vigorously opposed. In fact, the Communist Party opposed military action in Indo-China as early as 1946, when the party was involved in the government. Largely over this issue, the communists were excluded from the cabinet in 1947, not to return since. The party's policy toward Algeria forms the basis of our coding during the second part of our period. Its opposition to anti-colonialism in Algeria was not nearly so vigorous. In fact, the party supported the government of the socialist guy Mollet, who continued the war against Algerian rebels. Domestic political considerations caused the party to mute its ideological position on anti-colonialism in the Algerian case.
5.09 Supranational Integration
3, ac9
PCF deputies continually opposed proposals for European integration, including EDC and the Common Market.
5.10 National Integration
No information.
5.11 Electoral Participation
5, ac3
There is no definite information in the file, but it is presumed that the PCF supported universal suffrage in France.
5.12 Protection of Civil Rights
5, ac6
PCF especially concerned about rights of workers and trade unionists.
5.13 Interference with Civil Liberties
No information.
5.14 / 5.15 US--Soviet Experts Left-Right Ratings
US says 4,
communist Soviets say 3, progressive Marxist, urges socio democratic reform, party of the working class, democratic, supports socialism, unity of world communism based on Marxism-Leninism.

Goal Orientation Variables, 6.01-6.55
6.00 open competition in the electoral process
3 for 1950-57, ac7
4 for 1958-62, ac9
de Gaulle founded the RPF with the purpose of having a political organization to work for there form of the state, not with the intention of participating in party politics as practiced under the third republic and as forecast for the fourth republic. Nevertheless, the RPF did contest elections and won impressive victories in the 1947 municipal elections and the 1951 legislative elections. In the assembly, however, the RPF acted to obstruct the regime, withholding support from all governments until some RPF deputies defected to support Pinay in 1952. The following year, de Gaulle dissolved the RPF, but the Gaullist forces finally succeeded in their attempt to create a new constitutional structure with the fifth republic in 1958. Thereafter, the UNR was wholly oriented to the electoral process.
6.10 restricting party competition
0 for 1950-62, ac9
Although not completely engaged in a strategy of open competition in the electoral process for part of the first half of our time period, the Gaullists did not rely on a restrictive strategy toachieve their ends. We have been advised, however, that there were many rumors of "thuggery."
6.20 subverting the political system
1 for 1950-57, ac7
0 for 1958-62, ac9
In a very definite sense, the RPF did indeed employ a mixture of subversion and electoral competition in its overall strategy during the first half of our time period. The subversive tactics in this strategy were not the conventional ones of violent confrontations with the government but essentially acts of non-cooperation in parliamenton choosing and supporting a government. In this aspect of their parliamentary behavior, the RPF and communist party differed little. After 1958, the Gaullists were the governing party, and a subversive strategy, of course, was no longer in order. But our consultant points out that the party did support de gaulle's unconstitutional means of changing system for choosing the president in 1962.
6.30 propagandizing ideas and program
6.31 0 for 1950-57, ac6 and 1 for 1958-62, ac6 the RPF could not mainatin a daily paper during the first part of our time period, however, the unr published a daily, la nation.
6.32 0, ac3 there is no evidence of party schools.
6.33 for 1950-57, ac1 and 1 for 1958-62, ac6 the unr congress passed resolutions and platforms, but there is insufficient information as to whether a similar process occurred in the RPF.
6.34 ac1 no information.
6.50 providing for welfare of party members
6.51, 6.52, 6.53, 6.54 ac1 there is no reference to either the RPF's or the UNR's provision of such social welfare activities.
6.55 1 for 1950-57, ac6 and for 1958-62, ac1 the RPF had national organizations for social activities.

Autonomy Variables, 7.01-7.05
7.01 Sources of Funds
7, ac9
Membership dues but especially salaries of PCF parliamentary deputies have provided the bulk of the party's funds. Since the decline in parliamentary representation, the party has suffered a sizable loss of ready income.
7.02 Source of Members
5, ac6
Although many members of the CGT, France's largest trade union, are
Members of PCF, membership in the party is voluntary.
7.03 Sources of Leaders
1 (sector 01), ac8
The vast majority of PCF leaders come from the working class.
7.04 Relations with Domestic Parties
7, ac8
During the first part of our time period, the PCF was effectively isolated from participating with other parties. In the second half, it did engage in electoral alliances with other parties, primarily the socialists, but these were undertaken for opportunistic reasons without surrendering much autonomy of operation.
7.05 Relations with Foreign Organizations
1, ac9
There is suspicion that the USSR provided financial and other assistance to the PCF. Regardless of the extent or even existence of such aid, the PCF's autonomy in questions of policy formation was virtually nonexistent during our time period, as the party followed the international communist leadership in general.

Organizational Complexity Variables, 8.01-8.07
8.01 Structural Articulation
9, ac9
The PCF National Congress, Central Committee, Politbureau, and Secretariat can be identified as four distinct national party organs. Notwithstanding formal acknowledgement of elections, personnel selection to these organs is largely in terms of informal cooptation. However, the functions of these bodies, while distinctly hierarchical in nature, are clearly specified.
8.02 Intensiveness of Organization
6, ac9
The basic unit of the PCF is the cell, with from 3 to no more than 80 members. Usually, the membership is around 15 to 20 members.
8.03 Extensiveness of Organization
6, ac8
About 20 percent of the cells appeared to be based in place of employment, either factory or office. Another 30 percent were in rural areas, and most of the rest were local cells, organized on a geographical basis.
8.04 Frequency of Local Meetings
6, ac9
Cell meetings were held quite frequently, once a week or biweekly.
8.05 Frequency of National Meetings
5, ac5
The Central Committee meets about every two months, and the code is based on these meetings. However, the Politbureau meets weekly, and the code would be higher if this organ were chosen as the basis for coding.
8.06 Maintaining Records
10, ac9
The party sponsors a very extensive publishing program, but there is no evidence of a research division existing as an institutionalized organizational resource. Although the party's published membership figures are challenged by opposition parties, it must be assumed that its private lists are accurate, given the close observation of member behavior.
8.07 Pervasiveness of Organization
18, ac9
Trade unions and varied associations of newspapermen, veterans, scientists, and so on are affiliated with the party. Although the representation of these sectors varies considerably in numbers, the party does enjoy heavy representation from certain sectors, especially labor. In general, party control of these ancillary organizations is high.

Organizational Power Variables, 9.01-9.08
9.01 Nationalization of Structure
5, ac9
PCF has a party hierarchy from the cell at the local levels, the section composed of cells, the Department Federation composed of sections, and the Party Congress and Central Committee, which is further subdivided into a Politbureau.
9.02 Selecting the National Leader
7, ac3
There was no real change of leadership during our time period, so there is no firm basis for this judgment. However, Thorez was ill and recuperating in the USSR from 1950 to 1953. During his absence, while he was still Secretary General of the party, leadership was exercised by a collective balance of power of lieutenants within the Politbureau. No movement was made to involve outer circles of the party in leadership succession.
9.03 Selecting Parliamentary Candidates
5, ac6
Parliamentary candidates are chosen by local party committees, but the national organization approves the choices.
9.04 Allocating Funds
5, ac6
Funds are collected at the local level through membership dues. At the regional level, funds are drawn from the salaries of governmental officials who belong to the PCF. At the national level, funds are drawn from salaries of party members in the Assembly. But 75 percent of the funds of the local cells go to the regional and national levels for distribution.
9.05 Formulating Policy
6, ac9
Policy-making in the PCF is done by the Politbureau and the Secretariat. Although Thorez was clearly the central person in the policy-making process, pcf policy issued from something more than a one-man process.
9.06 Controlling Communications
7, ac9
The communist press, especially l'humanite, has extensive circulation in France. The national party organization supervises the editorial direction of the national party press.
9.07 Administering Discipline
4, ac8
The Politbureau issues binding rules to deputies, attends their meetings, and can invoke the deputies' resignation.
9.08 Leadership Concentration
4, ac8
Some sources identify Thorez as the supreme leader of the party. Others place leadership in the hands of Thorez and his top lieutenants, primarily Duclos. There seems to be no question about Thorez's prestige and preeminence within the party, but his poor health precluded the kind of one-man leadership that can occur within a centralized party.

Coherence Variables, 10.01-10.06
10.01 Legislative Cohesion
1.0, ac9
Pcf seems to be completely cohesive in voting on most bills in the Assembly.
10.02 Ideological Factionalism
0, ac9
PCF unquestioningly follows the ideology of orthodox Russian Marxism. Party doctrine is studied rather than debated.
10.03 Issue Factionalism
0, ac6
Discrete political issues have not emerged as a source of factionalism.
10.04 Leadership Factionalism
0, ac9
Despite rumors of disagreement and suggested divisions among Thorez and his top lieutenants, the situation is not severe enough to warrant being described as factious.
10.05 Strategic or Tactical Factionalism
2, ac9
One of the main sources of disagreement is the desired relationship of the PCF to the French left generally and cooperation with them in united front activities.
10.06 Party Purges
0 for 1st half, ac4
0 for 2nd half, ac4
Prominent leaders like Marty, Lecoeur, and Herve were expelled from the party for various reasons by 1956. In 1958, a Sorbonne cell was dissolved and leaders expelled. Although these examples are significant to the history of the PCF, they are not sufficiently large to be considered mass expulsions as defined by this variable.

Involvement Variables, 11.01-11.06
11.01 Membership Requirements
3, ac7
Apparently, the PCF, like the Italian Communist Party, departs from the classical cadre notion of Communist Party organization by following an open rather than closed membership policy and not requiring probationary periods for candidate members. The literature makes no mention of a lack of probationary status, but its absence from discussion is judged to mean it is not a requirement.
11.02 Membership Participation
4 for 1st half, ac4
2 for 2nd half, ac4
The literature tends to emphasize the non-militant character of most of the PCF membership, estimating that only about 25 percent is militant. But the criteria of militancy are too severe to conclude that the remainder are merely nominal members. Because the literature notes a decline in PCF member participation during our time period, most of the members are judged to be "participants" for the first half and "marginal" members for the second.
11.03 Material Incentives
0, ac3
The awarding of material incentives to induce militant participation almost always derives from a high level of governmental status, which the PCF did not enjoy in France. Our consultant notes, however, that many mayors were communist during this period. Joining one's mayor's party in a small village may well be due to material incentives. No doubt this was a factor for some members, but the proportion is thought to be far less than one-third.
11.04 Purposive Incentives
4, ac3
Most militants appear motivated to work for the party through the hope of its capturing political power and carrying out its governmental philosophy.
11.05 Doctrinism
3, ac9
The doctrine of the PCF consists of the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin explained by party leaders and reduced to a form easily learned by party members.
11.06 Personalism
0, ac5
Some attempt was made by the PCF to trade upon the personality of Thorez, especially for recruitment of new members. But it is unlikely that his personal magnetism accounted for the motivations of party militants.