Radical Party (France)
Infobox French Political Party
party_name = Parti Radical
party_wikicolourid = UMP
foundation = 1901
Liberalism, Centrism, Social liberalism
european = "none"
international = "none"
headquarters = 1, place de Valois 75001 Paris
website = [http://www.partiradical.net www.partiradical.net]
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The Radical Party ("Parti Radical", Rad., also known as "Parti radical valoisien") is a liberal and centrist political party in France. Founded in 1901 as Republican, Radical and Radical-Socialist Party ("Parti républicain, radical et radical-socialiste"), it is the oldest active political party in France.
Coming from the Radical Republican left-wing tradition, the Radical Party upholds principles of
private propertyand secularism. The Radicals were considered in the 1880s as a far left group, but with the emergence of the Socialists in 1905, they shifted to the centre-left. Since then they have shifted increasingly to the centre and finally to the centre-right. They are currently an associate party of the Union for a Popular Movement.
Radicals before the Radical Party
After the collapse of
Napoleon's Empire in 1815, a monarchic Restoration took place. The Republicans constituted the left-wing opposition, but they were also named "Radicals", a word coming from the British political language. It was systematicly uesd during the July Monarchy(1830-1848) because a law forbidden to define oneself as "Republican". The conservative turn of the July Monarchyreinforced the audience of the radical opposition. Some politicians such as Alexandre Ledru-Rollinand Louis Blancformulated a Radical doctrine. They advocated democratic reforms ( notably universal suffrage, freedom of press, right of meeting, etc) as a vehicle of social progress. They defended the small private property against the socialist projetcs and against the great landowners.
The Radicals took a major part in the 1848 Revolution and the foundation of the Second Republic. During few months,
Alexandre Ledru-Rollinwas Interior Minister in the provisional government. However, the conservatives won the 1848 legislative election, the first election by universal suffrage. The repression of the June 1848 workers demonstrations disappointed the left-wing supporters of the new regime. Alexandre Ledru-Rollinobtained only 5% of votes at the December 1848 presidential election, which was won by Napoléon III. This one established the Second Empire after the 1851 coup.From opposition, Radicals criticized personal power and the attacks on freedoms. At the end of the 1860s, with the Belleville Programme(supported by Léon Gambetta), they advocated the election of civil servants and mayors, the proclamation of the so-called "great liberties", free public teaching, and the separation between Church and State.
After the collapse of the Second Empire following the 1870
Franco-Prussian War, the Third Republic was proclaimed in September 1870. The Orleanists and Legitimists monarchists won the first elections in February 1871, but eventually the Republicans won the 1876 elections, leading to the firm establishment of the Republic. The word "Radicals" defined the uncompromising part of the Republican Left. In this, Radicals formed the far-left opposition to the moderate Republican (" Opportunist Republicans") governments. Georges Clemenceauwas the leader of the parliamentary group, who criticized colonial policy as a form of diversion from "revenge" against Prussia, and, due to his ability, was a protagonist of the collapse of many governments.
In the 1890s,
Léon Bourgeoisrenewed the Radical doctrine, including social reforms such as the progressive income taxand social insuranceschemes. After the Dreyfus Affair, Radicals joined forces with other Republicans and some Socialists in Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau's cabinet (1899-1902). The 1901 Act on the right of associationwas voted, and the Radicals created their party in 1901 in order to defend governmental policy from the Roman Catholic Church's influence and the conservative opposition.
The Republican, Radical and Radical-Socialist Party was the first large political party established at a national level in France, which contrasted with previous parliamentary groups or local electoral committees. The idea of establishing a national party deeply modified the political scene. Several Radical figures had already been presidents of the Council (
Ferdinand Buisson, Emile Combes, Charles Floquet, etc.) and the Radicals already benefited from a strong implantation in the country. The party was composed of an heterogeneous alliance of electoral committees, masonic lodges, sections of the " Ligue des droits de l'homme" (Human Rights League) and of the " Ligue française de l'enseignement" (French Teaching League, which was active in favor of public, secular education, an aim achieved first by the Jules Ferry Lawsand then by Combes' cabinet at the turn of the century).
The "Radical Republic" and the "Sacred Union" (1901-1919)
At 1902 legislative election, the Radicals allied themselves with the moderates of the
Democratic Republican Allianceand with the Socialists in the " Bloc des gauches" (Left-Wing Blocks) coalition and became the main political force. Émile Combestook the head of the "Bloc des gauches" cabinet and led a resolute anti-clerical policy culminating in the 1905 secularity law which, along with the Jules Ferry lawson public education voted in the 1880s, formed the backbone of " laïcité", France's separation of Church and State.
After the withdrawal of the Socialist ministers from the government following the
International Socialist Congress of Amsterdamin 1904, the coalition dissolved and the Radicals went alone into the 1906 legislative elections. Nevertheless, the Radical Party remained the axis of the parliamenary majorities and of the governments. The cabinet led by Georges Clemenceau(1906-1909) accomplished the income taxand the workers' pensions, but it remained in the history for the respression of industrial actions.
For the latter part of the Third Republic (1870-1940), Radicals, generally representing anti-clerical peasant and bourgeois voters, were usually the largest party in parliament, but with their anti-clerical agenda accomplished, the party lost their driving 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.
World War I(1914-1918), the Radical Party was the keystone of the " Sacred Union" and its historical leader, Georges Clemenceau, led the cabinet again from 1917 to 1919. He appeared as the architect of the victory, but his relation with the party deteriorated and Radicals lost the 1919 legislative election
After World War I: from the "Cartels des Gauches" to the overthrow of the Republic
By the end of the
First World Warthe Radical Party, now led by Édouard Herriot, were generally a moderate centre-left party, faced with the rise, on its left, of SFIO and PCF. With these political forces, Radicals shared anti-clericalism and the struggle for "social progress". But, unlike the other left parties, they defended the principle of private property. Besides, the Radical Party faced with conservatives groupings which were reinforced after the World War I. In this, some Radicals participated to governments dominated by right-wing politicians after the 1919 election
In 1924, Radicals formed electoral alliances with the
SFIOSocialist Party: the " Cartel des gauches" (Coalition of the Lefts). It won the 1924 legislative election and Edouard Herriottook the head of the cabinet. But then Radicals gradually drifted to the right, moving from Radical governments supported by the non-participating Socialists to a coalition of "Republican concentration" with more conservative parties in 1926.
Two yeras later, in the
Angers Congress, the left-wing of the party obtained the withdrawal of Radicals from the cabinet and the return to a policy of alliance with the Socialists. Edouard Daladierwas elected party leader. However, a part of the right-wing of the party defected and formed the Independent Radicalsgroup, who opposed left-wing alliances and were close to the conservative Democratic Alliance.
The second "Cartel des gauches" won the 1932 legislative election but its two main components did not succed to conclude a common agenda and, consequently, the
SFIOchose the support of the second government led by Edouard Herriotwithout participation. The coaltion fell on 7 February 1934, following riots organized by the far-right leagues the night before. Radical Camille Chautemps's government had been replaced by a government led by his popular party rival Édouard Daladierin January, after accusations of corruption against Chautemps' government in the wake of the Stavisky Affairand other similar scandals.
This pattern of initial alliance with a socialist party unwilling to join in active government, followed by disillusionment and alliance with the right seemed to be broken in 1936, when the
Popular Frontelectoral alliance with the Socialists and the Communists led to the accession of Socialist leader Léon Blumas Prime Minister in a coalition government in which the Radical leaders Camille Chautempsand Édouard Daladier(representing respectively left and right of the Radical Party) took important roles. For the first time of its history, the Radical Party obtained less votes than the SFIO.
Over the tempestuous life of the coalition, however, the Radicals began to become concerned at the perceived radicalism of their coalition partners. Hence, they opposed themselves to Blum's intention to help the Republicans during the
Spanish Civil War(1936-39), forcing him to adopt a non-interventionist policy. Following the failure of Blum's second government in April 1938, Daladier formed a new government in coalition with conservative parties.
29 September 1938 Munich Agreement, which handed over Sudetenlandto Germanyin exchange for what proved to be a temporary peace, Daladier was acclaimed upon his return to Paris as the man who had avoided the war. However, with the invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, two days later the French government led by Daladier made good on its guarantees to Poland, by declaring war alongside Britain. Following the 23 August 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pactbetween Germany and the Soviet Union, Daladier engaged in an anti-communistpolicy, prohibiting PCF's activities and the party's newspaper, " L'Humanité".
Furthermore, Daladier moved increasingly to the right, notably repealing the 40 hour work week which had been the Popular Front's most visible accomplishment. Daladier would eventually resign on March 1940, and take part in
Paul Reynaud's (" Democratic Republican Alliance", center-right) government as minister of National Defense and of War. After the defeat of the Battle of France, the French army being overwhelmed by the Nazi " Blitzkrieg", the French government declared Parisan "open city" on 10 Juneand flew to Bordeaux. The same month, Daladier would escape to Moroccoin the "Massilia". Thus, he wasn't there during the controversial 10 July 1940vote of the full powers to Marshall Pétain. Charles de Gaulleand several historians ( Michel Winock, etc.) refused to recognize this vote, arguing that although it had superficially respected legality, it had taken place amid lies from Pierre Laval, pressure on deputies, and the absence of the main political figures such as Daladier, despite the 1875 Constitutional amendments which prohibited any interference with the Republican nature of the regime (see Vichy France).
The Fourth Republic (1946-1958)
World War II(1939-45), Radicals, like many of the other political parties, were discredited by their earlier support for granting emergency powers to Marshal Philippe Pétainon 10 July 1940, which led to the establishment of the Vichy regime ("Etat Français"), although such senior Radical leaders as Edouard Herriot, then President of the Chamber of Deputies, had been ambivalent.
Daladier was tried in 1942 by the Vichy regime (see the
Riom Trial), which accused him, as well as other political leaders such as Socialist Léon Blumand conservative Paul Reynaud, of being morally and strategically responsible for the loss of the Battle of France.
After the war, the Radical Party was reconstituted, and formed one of the important parties of the Fourth Republic (1946-58), but never recovered the dominant pre-war position. It failed to prevent the adoption of the projects of the
Three-partiescoalition (nationalizations, Welfare State...). Along with Democratic and Socialist Union of the Resistance, it formed an electoral entity, the Rally of the Republican Lefts(RGR). From 1947, after the split of the governmental coalition, it participated to the Third Force coalition with the SFIO, the christian-democratic Popular Republican Movementand the liberal-conservative National Centre of Independents and Peasants.
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 the agreement for French withdrawal from Tunisia. Mendès-France, a very popular figure who helped renew the Radical Party after its discredit, was indeed elected on the pledge to stop Indochina War (1946-54).
Mendès-France hoped to make the Radicals the party of the mainstream centre-left in France, taking advantage of the difficulties of the SFIO. 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. They split and transformed the RGR in a centre-right party distinct from the Radical Party. Under Pierre Mendès-France's leadership, the Radical Party participated to a centre-left coalition, the Republican Front, which won the 1956 legislative election. Another split, this time over France's policy about the Algerian War(1954-62), led to his resignation as party leader and the party's move in a distinctly conservative direction.
The Fourth Republic was characterized by constant parliamentary instability because of divisions between major parties over the Algerian War, which was officially called a "public order operation" until 1990s. Mendès-France opposed the war and
colonialism, while the SFIO led by prime minister Guy Molletsupported it. Because of the start of the Cold War, all political parties, even the SFIO, opposed the French Communist Party(PCF), which was very popular due to its role during the Resistance (it was known as the "parti des 75,000 fusillés", "party of the 75,000 executed people"). The PCF was also opposed to French Algeria and supported its independence.
In the midst of this parliamentary instability and divisions of the political class,
Charles de Gaulletook advantage of the May 13, 1958 crisisto return to power. On 13 MayEuropean colonists seized the governor general's building in Alger, while Opération Résurrectionwas launched by the right-wing insurrectionary " Comité de Salut Public". De Gaulle, who had deserted the political arena during a decade by disgust over the parliamentary system and its chronic unstability (the "système des partis" which he severely criticized), appeared on this day as the only man able to reconciliate the far-right and the European settlers, which were threatening Paris of a coup d'état, with the Republic. He was thus called to power and proclaimed the end of the Fourth Republic, according to him too weak because of its parliamentarism, and replaced it by the Fifth Republic, a hybrid presidential-parliamentary system tailored for himself.
The Radical Party supported de Gaulle at this crucial moment, leading Pierre Mendès-France to quit the party. Opposed to the proposed constitution, Mendès-France campaigned for the "no" on the
28 September 1958 referendum. However, the new Constitution was finally adopted and proclaimed on 4 October 1958.
The Fifth Republic (1958)
Popular figure Pierre Mendès-France thus quit the Radical Party, which had crossed the threshold to the centre-right, as early moderate Republicans did at the beginning of the Third Republic, when the Radical Party, appearing to their left, pushed them over the border between the left-wing and the right-wing, a process dubbed "
Mendès-France then founded the "Centre d'Action Démocratique" (CAD), which would later join the
Autonomous Socialist Party(PSA, which had split from the SFIO), which in turn would fuse into the Unified Socialist Party (PSU) on 3 April 1960. This new socialist party thus gathered all the dissidents from the Radical Party and the SFIO who were opposed to both the Algerian War and the proclamation of the new presidential regime. Mendès-France would officially become a member of the PSU in 1961, a year before the 18 March 1962 Evian Accordswhich put an end to the Algerian War.
The Radical Party returned from support of the government to opposition in 1959 and declined throughout all the 1960s. Allied with the SFIO in the
Federation of the Democratic and Socialist Left, it supported François Mitterrandfor the 1965 presidential election. This federation later split, in 1968.
Under the leadership of
Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, President since 29 October 1969issued from the left-wing, the party again made tentative moves to the left in the 1970s, but stopped short of an alliance with Socialist François Mitterrandand his Communist allies, leading to a final split in 1972 when the remaining left-wing Radicals left the party and eventually became the Movement of the Radical-Socialist Left. This group wanted to be a part of the left-wings Common Programspinned-out to create the Movement of the Left Radicals (MRG) and supported the candidate of the left-wing, François Mitterrand, at the 1974 presidential election.
Radical Party valoisien
Henceforth, the Radical Party began to be known as "valoisien", from the location of its national headquarters at the
Place de Valoisin Paris, in order to distinguish it from the MRG. Opposed to an electoral alliance with the PCF, which was the foundations of the 1972 "Common Program", the Radicals were still anti- Gaullists. They allied with the christian-democrats in the Reforming Movementin order to propose another way between the "Common Program" 's parties and the "Presidential Majoriry" led by Gaullists. Finally, they joined it after the election of Valéry Giscard d'Estaingfor presidency of Francein 1974. They supported most reforms of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's presidency (in particular the authorization of the contraceptive pill, recognition of women's rights, etc.). This evolution, brought by Servan-Schreiber's influence, would end with the latter's failure during the 1979 European elections.
Following the left-wing scission in 1971, the Radical Party "valoisien" maintained the judicial rights to the official name of Republican, Radical and Radical-Socialist Party and is its legal continuation. The Valoisien Radicals do not use the term "Socialist" anymore since 1981, although the term is still present in their official denomination.Fact|date=May 2008
After the failure of the alliance with the Christians Democrats into the
Reforming Movement, the Radical Party maintained its influence by participating to the creation of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's Union for French Democracy(UDF) in 1978. It was one of its six components, along with the centrists of the " Centre des démocrates sociaux", the liberals of the Republican Party and of the " National Federation of Perspectives and Realities Clubs", the social-democrats of the Socialist-Democratic Movement and of the new members of the UDF. Through the UDF, the Radical Party participated to all of the governments issued from parliamentary majorities of the Rally for the Republic(RPR)/UDF.
Association with the Union for a Popular Movement
An important split took place after the 1998 regional elections during which some members of the party composed electoral alliances with the far-right National Front party. Those members created the
Liberal Democracyparty, while the Radical Party remained a member of the UDF. During the 2002 presidential election, François Bayroupresented himself as a candidate for the UDF, while the Radical Party supported his rival, Jacques Chirac(RPR).
After Chirac's re-election in 2002, most radicals participated to the creation of his new party, the
Union for a Popular Movement(UMP). The Radical Party then quit the UDF to associate itself with the UMP, sharing its memberships and budget with the latter. Some members, however, such as Thierry Cornillet, continue to be part of UDF. It was then headed by Jean-Louis Borlooand André Rossinot.
After the rise of
Nicolas Sarkozyto the leadership of UMP, Radicals launched a sort of re-foundation of their party in order to create a counterbalancing moderate and social wing within the UMP. The party soon started to attract other centrists (as Jean-Louis Borloo, Renaud Dutreil, Véronique Mathieuand Françoise Hostalier) and even some anti-Sarkozy neo-Gaullists (as Serge Lepeltierand Alain Ferry). As a result, the Radical Party is having an unexpected comeback in French politics. It now has 18 deputies (1 more from those elected in 2002), 7 senators (two more from 2002) and 8,000 members. Jean-Louis Borloois a high-ranking minister in François Fillon's government, as Minister of the Environment and Minister of State.
Today, Radical senators of both left and right-wing sit in the same group, the "Democratic, Social and European Rally", and their
anti-clericalism, although softened, separates them from the conservatives on specific and exceptional issues (such as the conservatives' demonstrations in the 1980s against president François Mitterrand's bill on private schools, which are mostly Roman Catholic).
The party has currently:
Jean-Louis Bernard(Loiret), Renaud Dutreil(Marne), Alain Ferry(Bas-Rhin), Frédéric Reiss(Bas-Rhin), François Loos(Bas-Rhin), Françoise Hostalier(Nord), Jean Grenet(Pyrénées-Atlantiques), Laurent Henart(Meurthe-et-Moselle), Robert Lecou(Hérault), Jean Leonetti(Alpes-Maritimes), Alain Marc(Aveyron), Franck Reynier(Drôme), François Scellier(Val-d'Oise), André Wojciechowski(Moselle), Michel Zumkeller(Territoire de Belfort), Alfred Almont(Martinique), Jacqueline Irles(Pyrénées-Orientales) and Pierre Morel-A-L'Huissier(Lozère);
Pierre Jarlier(Cantal), Sophie Joissains(Bouches-du-Rhône), Michel Thiollière(Loire), Jean-Paul Alduy(Pyrénées-Orientales), Alain Chatillon(Haute-Garonnne) and Aymeri de Montesquiou(Gers)
Véronique Mathieu, Tokia Saïfiand Thierry Cornillet.
Jean-Louis Borlooand André Rossinot(Co-Presidents, 2005–2007)
History of the Left in France
Liberalism and radicalism in France
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