Socialist Party, France

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Early history (up to 1969)

Formed in 1905, the SFIO (Section Française de l'Internationale Ouvrière, French Section of the Socialist International) united the hitherto fragmented socialist groups. These included the Marxists under J. Guesde, the revolutionary socialists, and the pragmatic socialists whose outstanding figure was Jaurès. The party had considerable success, gaining 104 seats in the Chamber of Deputies in 1914. However, the Marxist principle of non-participation in bourgeois government adopted from the followers of Guesde kept the SFIO out of government for 30 years. In 1920, the majority left to form the Communist Party (PCF), but the SFIO soon recovered as the second largest parliamentary party. Under its leader, Blum, an alliance was concluded in 1934 with the PCF, which proceeded to win the 1935 general elections. The new Popular Front government under Blum lasted only from 1936 to 1937, but the participating parties continued to support the following government until it split over the Munich Agreement.

During World War II, many socialists took an active part in the French Résistance. The party participated in several postwar governments in the Fourth Republic and supported de Gaulle's return in 1958. Thereafter, however, it became increasingly marginalized in the political system, and in 1965 it regrouped with other parties of the left as the Social Democratic Federation of the Left.

Contemporary history (since 1969)

In 1969, it transformed itself into the Parti Socialiste (PS, Socialist Party), which was led by Mitterrand from 1971. During the 1970s, the fortunes of the PS improved steadily and in 1981 the PS finally gained an overall majority, with Mitterrand elected President. As his Prime Minister, Laurent Fabius, was unable to recover from the innovative but disastrous policies of Mauroy, the PS lost its parliamentary majority in 1986 to the UDF and the Gaullists. It formed the government again in 1988, when Mitterrand appointed Michel Rocard his Prime Minister (1988–91). However, the party's fortunes plummeted, partly as a result of the inept leadership of Cresson (1991–2), which her successor, Prime Minister Pierre Bérégovoy (1992–3) was unable to reverse. Reinforced by the increasing dissatisfaction with the long reign of Mitterrand himself, the PS was routed in the 1993 general elections, when its representation in the National Assembly shrank from 260 to 54 seats. This foreshadowed its defeat in the 1995 presidential elections, when Jospin lost to Chirac. The party appeared in a desperate situation, but under Jospin's leadership it rebounded in the 1997 parliamentary elections, gaining 241 seats. A period of cohabitation ensued, involving a ruling coalition of five left-wing parties including the Communist Party, but its policies turned out to be moderate so as not to endanger economic growth. This split the left, as more radical sections refused to unite for the 2002 presidential and parliamentary elections. Owing to these divisions, Jospin failed to enter the second round of the presidential elections. Jospin resigned, and a disunited Socialist Party obtained but 140 seats, and faced an overwhelming majority of the right-wing UMP.

The party was divided in the 2005 referendum on the Treaty establishing a European Constitution, but recovered under the leadership of François Hollande. His partner, Ségolène Royal, was chosen by party members as the socialist candidate for the 2007 presidential elections. However, the Socialists were yet again defeated in the battle for the presidency. This led to demands that the party reconstitute itself as a more centrist social democratic party.http://www.parti-socialiste.frThe official website of the French Socialist Party.


Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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