Pierre Poujade

(b. 1920)

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(b. Saint-Céré 1 Dec. 1920; d. La Bastide-l'Évêque, 27 Aug. 2003)

French; Political agitator Pierre Poujade came from a lower-middle-class family established in the rural centre of France. A member of the Vichy youth organization, he crossed to Algeria in 1942, joined the air force, and returned to France in 1945 to set up a stationery business in the small south-western town of Saint-Céré. After 1950, small shopkeepers in France came under commercial pressure from retail chains and faced increasingly severe tax demands. Poujade launched a tax revolt against what he saw as an assault on the small man carried out by big government, big business, and big trade unionism. The Union des Commercants et Artisans (UDCA) which he founded in 1953 spread rapidly through agricultural regions and carried out a number of spectacular stunts designed to discredit the administration. With an expanding membership went a more radical rhetoric. Poujade denounced the corruptions of the political system, spoke out for the French settlers in Algeria, and called for the summoning of an Estates General. In the 1956 parliamentary elections, Poujade's candidates, to general astonishment, won fifty-two seats. This, however, was the high water mark of the movement which disappeared as a political force when de Gaulle returned to power in 1958. Poujade retreated to Saint-Céré and his attempts at a comeback were unsuccessful.

Though opponents denounced Poujade as the voice of ‘back of the shop Fascism’, he was not ideologically driven and broke with erstwhile allies like Le Pen who were. His ambition was simply to bring back the small town France which had enabled small men like him to survive. It is a measure of his initial impact that ‘Poujadism’ has become the generic term to describe the radical politics of social groups threatened by modernization.

Subjects: Politics.

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