“Working for the People of France”. The National Making of the French Communist Party (1920 – 1962)

Selim Nadi


This paper aims at questioning the evolution of the relationship the French C.P. (PCF) had with the French Nation from its foundation at the Congrès de Tours (December 1920) to the end of the Algerian War. Indeed, if the “ambiguous attitude” the PCF had during the Algerian War – strongly linked to a particular attachment to the French Republic and its interests – is well known both by historians and by political theorists, it seems that its evolution regarding this question is widely underestimated. Thus, in order not to analyse the PCF as a homogeneous bloc, this paper will focus on three key periods in the PCF's relationship to the Nation: its first years and its inherent contradictions (also focusing on the importance of the revolutionary-syndicalists, a point often neglected by historians), the period of the Front Populaire, where the PCF began to give a new theoretical meaning to the word “peuple”, using it to speak about the French people (rather than the “colonized people”, as it has done before) and, last but not least, the defence of the “Union française” during the Indochinese and Algerian Wars. The attachment to the French Nation is a necessary way to analyse the evolution of the PCF if one wants to understand the way this party turns itself into a national-reformist party and abandonned its revolutionary origins.
Looking both at archives of the Party and at its publications – such as, for example, journals like the Bulletin Communiste or L'Humanité or some writing of key figures of the Party, like Maurice Thorez and his political speeches who were often directed toward the French People (Au service du peuple de France, La lutte pour l'indépendance nationale et pour la paix, Une politique de grandeur française) - this paper aims at exploring the complexity of the PCF, its relationship to bolshevism and to class struggle, through its strong relationship toward the "République Française" and its evolution on the colonial issue.

Colonialism - Communist Party - France - Social-Chauvinism