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Georges Marchais in 1981.
Georges René Louis Marchais (7 June 1920, La Hoguettemarker in Calvadosmarker - 16 November 1997, Parismarker) was the head of the French Communist Party (PCF) from 1972 to 1994, and a candidate in the French presidential elections of 1981 - in which he managed to garner only 15.34% of the vote, which was considered at the time a major setback for the party.

Early life

Born into a Roman Catholic family, he became a mechanic, just before the beginning of WWII, with the Société Nationale d'Étude et de Construction de Moteurs d'Aviation. After the fall of France, he appears to have enrolled in Nazi Germany to work in the Messerschmitt aircraft manufacturing plant, as he left for Germany before the establishment of the STO system, by which French workers were compelled to work in German plants.

In 1946, he became secretary of the metalworkers' trade union in Issy-les-Moulineaux, and advanced in the Confédération générale du travail in his commune from 1951, becoming secretary of the Seinemarker Metallurgical Workers' Union Federation from 1953 to 1956.

Political career

He entered the Party in 1947. In 1956, he was appointed a member of the extended Central Committee, and in 1959 a full member of it and of the Politburo. From 1961, he was the secretary in charge of the organization, then junior General Secretary in 1970. He co-signed the Common Programme with the Socialist Partymarker (PS) and the Movement of Left Radicals (MRG) in June 1972. From 1973 to 1997, he was deputy of Val de Marnemarker département, in Southern Paris suburb.

In reaction to the riots of May 1968, Marchais showed his contempt for Daniel Cohn-Bendit by calling him a German anarchist.

In December 1972, he became General Secretary, following Waldeck Rochet's retirement. During his mandate, the PCF lost its place of "first left-wing party" to François Mitterrand's Socialist Party. At the beginning, he supported reforms in his party, which participated to Eurocommunism and renounced the notion of a dictatorship of the proletariat (22nd congress, 1976). Then, faced with electoral growing of the PS at the expense of his party, he imposed a re-alignment on the Soviet Unionmarker at the end of the 1970s. The left-wing parties failed to update their Common Programme and lost the 1978 legislative election, even though they were leading in the polls. Outside and inside the party, he was accused of being responsible for this defeat. One year later, he supported the Soviet invasion of Afghanistanmarker (1979), judged the Communist governments "fairly positive", and criticized the "right-wing drift" of the Socialist Party. In the 1981 presidential election, he came fourth in the first round, with 15% of votes, thereafter endorsing Mitterrand, who won the second round.

In 1984, after President Mitterrand renounced the left's Common Programme, the PCF's ministers resigned from the cabinet. An electoral decline ensued and Marchais faced internal dissent from figures such as Pierre Juquin, Claude Poperen and Charles Fiterman. He was reserved about perestroika. Unlike the Italian Communists, he refused to change the name of the French Party after the collapse of the Soviet block.

In 1994, at the 28th Congress of the PCF, he ceded his place as General Secretary to Robert Hue, although he maintained his titular role as a member of the Politburo - now significantly renamed the National Office. The same year, he became President of the PCF Comité pour la défense des libertés et droits de l'homme en France et dans le monde ("Committee for the Defense of Human Liberties and Rights in France and Throughout the World"). He criticised the renovation of the party under his successor. He died in 1997.


Georges Marchais was a notable personality because of his mannerisms (Ct'un scandaaaale — "This is a scandal!") and brusque demeanor, often lambasted by comic Thierry Le Luron. He is particularly remembered for an outburst
Taisez-vous Elkabbach ("Shut up, Elkabbach!")
to journalist Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, although he never actually said this. It was said by Pierre Douglas imitating him to Thierry Le Luron who was imitating Raymond Barre

During his TV performances, he had an aggressive and humorous tone with the journalists and his opponents. They stayed in the memory of the French audience.For instance, questioned by Elkabbach and Alain Duhamel about his economic propositions, he answered: "you are privileged, you hold many jobs and make good salaries (in TV, radio, papers...), probably you are concerned by my proposition for a wealth tax, I understand why you don't want the change!"


  • Les Communistes et les Paysans - "The Communists and Peasantry" (1972)
  • Le défi démocratique - "The Challenge of Democracy" (1973)
  • La politique du PCF - "PCF Policies" (1974)
  • Communistes et/ou chrétiens - "Communists and/or Christians" (1977)
  • Parlons franchement - "Let's Be Frank" (1977)
  • Réponses - "Answers" (1977)
  • L'espoir au présent - "Hope in the Present" (1980)
  • Démocratie - "Democracy" (1990)



  • Brown, Bernard (1974). Protest in Paris: Anatomy of a Revolt. Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press.
  • Brown, Bernard (1982). Socialism of a Different Kind: Reshaping the Left in France. New York: Greenwood Press.
  • Duby, George and Philippe Aries (1991). A History of Private Life. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
  • Lane, A Thomas (1995). Biographical Dictionary of European Labor Leaders. Two volumes. Westport: Greenwood Press.
  • Penniman, Howard (1988). France at the Polls, 1981 and 1986. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Wilsford, David (1995). Political Leaders of Contemporary Western Europe. Westport: Greenwood Press.

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