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Henry Judd

The Results of the French Elections

(25 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 47, 25 November 1946, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Final results in the French elections of November 10, with the exception of 15 colonial seats yet to be accounted for, reveal the following division in seats for France’s new National Assembly, the body that henceforth will govern the nation in accordance with the Constitution adopted in the October 13 referendum.

Communist Party

186 seats

Socialist Party

108 seats


294 seats

MRP (Bidault-Catholic Party)

162 seats

Radical-Socialist Party

  63 seats

PRL and Gaullist Union Party

  85 seats


310 seats

In terms of the popular vote, the final results were as follows:

Communist Party

  5,576,000 – 28%

Socialist Party

  3,454,000 – 18%


  9,030,000 – 46%

MRP (Bidault-Catholic Party)

  5,100,000 – 26%

Radical-Socialist Party

  1,971,000 – 11%

PRL and Gaullist Union Party

  3,137,000 – 17%


10,208,000 – 54%

No Decisive Shifts in Forces

From the above statistics, it is clear that as yet no final, decisive shifting of forces and opinions has taken place in France, although significant tendencies are revealed by contrasting these reports with those of previous elections. Some of these symptomatic signs are the following:

  1. Whereas a year ago, as a result of the October elections to the Constituent Assembly, the reformist Socialist Party and the Stalinist Party – both together supported by the French working class – had a clear-cut majority in the nation, this is no longer the case. At that time, these two parties had 282 seats in the Assembly, an absolute majority, whereas today they have together 16 seats less than the necessary majority. In October of last year, these two parties counted 9,700,000 votes – again, an absolute majority of the popular vote – as against 9,000,000 today, or only 46 per cent.
  2. Within the working class movement, however, the Stalinist Party has retained its support and influence. It has even grown slightly, at the expense of the Socialists. In three separate elections, the Stalinists received respectively 26 per cent, 26.2 per cent and finally 28 per cent of the vote. They also increased their popular vote from 5,100,000 to 5,300,000 and finally to 5,576,000. The Socialist Party, on the other hand, has declined steadily, losing to the Stalinists and the Catholic MRP. It has dropped from 4,600,000 to 3,454,000 (a mere 18 per cent of the popular vote) within one year, thus underscoring the severe crisis existing within that party.

Abstentions Indicate Rising Disgust

  1. Today; the bourgeois, conservative and pro-capitalist parties ranging from the middleclass, Catholic-liberal party of Bidault (MRP) to the extremely reactionary, semi-fascistic PRL and Union Gaulliste, have an absolute majority, both in popular votes and seats in the new National Assembly, revealing a basic transformation in the situation since last year. Most significant of all is the sharp growth in the PRL, the reactionary center of the French bourgeoisie, army officers and pro-fascist de Gaullist supporters. This party has grown from 2,500,000 votes to 3,137,000 votes, an increase almost as great as the decline in the Socialist vote. But the fact that the vote of the MRP has remained almost constant during the course of all elections indicates that the vast French middle class is still unwilling to throw its tacit support to any violent, militaristic solution to the impasse in French politics. Thus, while the parties of the left have received definite warnings, by no means have final, clear-cut positions been taken. The ebb and flow in the French political movement is bound to continue for the next period.
  2. Finally, it is worthy of (notice to point to the gradual decline in the number of those who voted. Out of 24,000,000 Frenchmen eligible to vote, only 19,071,755 voted on November 10, signifying an abstention of 21.6 per cent of the eligibles. There were 600,000 more non-voters in this election than in October of 1945; 1,150,000 more non-voters in this election than in June, 1946. This indicates an increasing disgust and disenchantment with the coalition governments and, in general, with the ability of the existing parties to grapple with the permanent crisis in French economic and social life.

A New Hypocritical Maneuver

With the elections completed, the most treacherous and hypocritical maneuvering has begun among the big parties (Communist Party, MRP, Socialist Party, Radical Socialist Party) for the purpose of arriving at agreement to form the new government and elect a president in January 1947. The Stalinists have clearly indicated their willingness, in their own political interests, to continue the class collaboration coalition government with the MRP and the. Socialist Party, and to even sit together with the Radical Socialists in a modernized variation of the 1936 Popular Frontist government.

These maneuvers are, of course, suitable at present to French Stalinist and Russian foreign objectives, since the present world situation does not favor any sharp break with its previous policies of stifling the militancy of the French working class. The declining Socialist Party can only serve as a broker between the Stalinists and the MRP, during the negotiations. If, however, the combined parties of the right (now wielding a clear majority) attempt to elect de Gaulle as president of France in January, then a sharp political struggle will ensue, the consequences of which cannot be seen.

In all likelihood, a coalition government, will be formed, since neither political BLOC (right or left) is by itself capable of governing France, nor is either prepared for a violent resolving of the stalemate that exists. An unstable, semi-paralyzed “government of truce” will be created, marking a continuation in the drifting, temporizing and indecisive path of French affairs.

The real stimulus to the class struggle in France will come out of the ranks of the workers who, pressed forward by the undoubted partial revival in French economic life and production, will move into action – as the postal employees already have – to achieve their economic and social demands. But will not their efforts be sabotaged by the French Stalinists who, anxious to penetrate into every crevice of government and hold France in line for continued neutrality or active support to Russian foreign policy, have hitherto put the damper on all working class struggles?

PCI Activity A Welcome Sign

The problem of winning the French workers away from their present support to the Stalinist Party is, obviously, the key problem to the political situation in France. The fact remains, as borne out by the elections, that the French workers persist in their support to the Communist Party. There are many, varied reasons for this – this party has become a traditional party for the French workers, “their” party; it is able to most skilfully and demagogically exploit the hopes and aspirations of the French workers; it can still pose as the party that led the anti-Nazi resistance movement; it can pin the blame for the continued difficulties in French economic life on the other coalition parties – the MRP and the Socialists – and get away with this hypocrisy; it can still appear, on necessary occasions, as the party of the Russian October Revolution, etc.

Furthermore, it must be recognized that the French working class and labor movement, thanks to years of Stalinist and reformist Socialist leadership, has to a considerable extent lost its initiative for class action along independent lines. Just as the German workers who supported the Social Democracy became lulled and corrupted by years of exclusively parliamentary life on the part of their party, so the same process of deadening of class activity and self-reliance has affected the French working class. Parliamentary maneuverism by its two major parties has certainly had its reactionary effects, despite the undoubted militancy and desire for revolutionary action that exists. The task of winning over the French proletarians is no easy, short-range prospect.

In this situation, the growth and activity of the French Trotskyist Party (PCI) is a welcome sign. Its election vote, particularly in the Paris proletarian districts (see report on page 1), is REVOLUTIONARY PROGRESS THAT WILL UNDOUBTEDLY CONTINUE. But the PCI, unfortunately in our opinion, has neither understood the nature of French Stalinism, nor has it learned how to combat it. Instead of appearing before the French workers, whom it must win to its banner, as a clear-cut, anti-Stalinist revolutionary party, the PCI made the blunder of proposing an election “deal” to the Stalinist Party. In return for withdrawing all our candidates except one, and voting for your candidates, said the leadership of the PCI to Messrs. Stalinists Thorez, Duclos, etc., will you elect our one candidate?

An Open Attack on Stalinism

The clear purpose of this was to expose the Communist Party, and some comrades in France claim that it helped raise the PCI vote in the Paris suburbs. Why should any French worker, who belongs to or supports the Stalinist Party, lose faith and confidence in his party when the Trotskyists stand ready to endorse it (in exchange for what will appear to workers as a parliamentary crumb)? How can the true character of the French Stalinist movement be explained by such maneuvers? Why should French workers and Socialist Party members to whom the nature of Stalinism, as the world’s most anti-revolutionary force, is first becoming clear, why should they join or support a party that proposes such “arrangements” with the CP? Instead of exposure there is confusion.

We believe a political error was committed by the PCI, but an error the implications of which are more serious than the act itself. For, while we completely support the present slogan of the French Trotskyists that the Socialist and Communist parties must break their present coalition with the capitalist parties and refuse to administer French capitalism, we consider this only a partial step on the road to unmasking Stalinism before the workers.

The PCI indicates it shares, to a considerable extent, the illusions about Stalinism that prevail among the French workers. Not by yielding either to Stalinism or these illusions .will the PCI grow as a force, but only by rejecting such vain efforts at exposure and above all, by forthright attack upon the French Stalinist Party as a non-revolutionary, totalitarian movement, despite its working class support.

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