Radical Party (France)

From Academic Kids

Template:Politics of France The Radical Party (Parti Radical or Républicains Radicaux et Radicaux-Socialistes, Radical Republicans and Radical Socialists), was a major French political party of the early to mid 20th century, originally considered radical due to its anti-clericalism. It continued to exist as a minor liberal party under the umbrella of the Union for a Popular Movement, while the more leftist wing of the party split off in the 1970s to form the Parti Radical de Gauche, which exists as a small ally of the French Socialist Party.

Radicalism was already a well-established movement in France before the Radical Party itself was established in 1901. Radical-led governments at the turn of the century led by René Waldeck-Rousseau and Émile Combes were responsible for major reforms in the education system that freed it from the control of the Catholic Church.

For the latter part of the Third Republic, the Radicals, generally representing anti-clerical peasant and petit bourgeois voters, were usually the largest party in parliament, but with their anti-clerical agenda accomplished, the party lacked any real guiding force. Its leader before World War I, Joseph Caillaux, was generally more noted for his advocacy of better relations with Germany than for his reformist agenda.

The name became rather famously a misnomer, as by the 1920s the Radicals, now led by Edouard Herriot were generally a moderate center-left party. In 1924 and again in 1932, the Radicals formed electoral alliances with the Socialists, but then gradually drifted right over the life of the parliament, moving from Radical governments supported by the non-participating Socialists (1924-1926, 1932-1934) to coalitions with more conservative parties (1926-1928, 1934-1936).

This pattern seemed to be broken in 1936, when the Popular Front electoral alliance with the Socialists and the Communists led to the accession of Socialist leader Léon Blum as Prime Minister in a coalition government in which the Radical leaders Camille Chautemps and Edouard Daladier took important roles. Over the tempestuous life of the coalition, however, the Radicals began to become concerned at the perceived radicalism of their coalition partners, and following the failure of Blum's second government in April 1938, Daladier formed a new government in coalition with conservative parties. Over the life of his government (which lasted until March 1940), Daladier moved increasingly to the right, notably repealing the 40 hour work week which had been the Popular Front's most visible accomplishment.

After the defeat of France in 1940, the Radicals, like many of the other political parties, were discredited by their support for granting emergency powers to Marshal Pétain, despite the ambivalence of such senior radical leaders as Herriot, the President of the Chamber of Deputies. After the war, the Party was reconstituted, and formed one of the important parties of the Fourth Republic, but never recovered their dominant pre-war position.

In the early years of the Fourth Republic the party returned to the moderate left under the leadership of Pierre Mendès-France, a strong opponent of French colonialism whose premiership from 1954 to 1955 saw France's withdrawal from Indochina and working out an agreement for French withdrawal from Tunisia. Mendès-France hoped to make the Radicals the party of the mainstream left in France, taking advantage of the difficulties of the Socialists. The more conservative elements in the party, led by Edgar Faure, resisted these policies, leading to the fall of Mendès-France's government in 1955. Another split, this time over France's policy in Algeria, where Mendès-France opposed the hard-line policies of Socialist prime minister Guy Mollet, led to his resignation as party leader, and the party's move in a distinctly conservative direction.

The Radicals supported Charles de Gaulle's ascension to power in 1958, leading Mendès-France to quit the party.

In the early 1970s, the party, under the leadership of Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, again made tentative moves to the left, but stopped short of an alliance with Socialist François Mitterrand and his Communist allies, leading to a final split in 1972, when the remaining left-wing Radicals left the party, becoming eventually the Parti Radical de Gauche.

The remainder of the party continued in a conservative direction, joining President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's UDF, an umbrella organization for the non-Gaullist right, in 1978.

The Radicals left the UDF to join President Chirac's UMP in 2002.

See also

External Link

Official web site (http://www.partiradical.net)


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