Maurice Thorez
Maurice Thorez was a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 politician and longtime leader of the French Communist Party
French Communist Party
The French Communist Party is a political party in France which advocates the principles of communism.Although its electoral support has declined in recent decades, the PCF retains a large membership, behind only that of the Union for a Popular Movement , and considerable influence in French...

 (PCF) from 1930 until his death. He also served as vice premier of France from 1946 to 1947.


Thorez, born in Noyelles-Godault
Noyelles-Godault is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:Noyelles-Godault is a former coalmining town, nowadays a light industrial and farming town, east of Lens, at the junction of the A21 autoroute and A1 autoroute.-Population:-Places of...

, Pas-de-Calais, became a coal miner at the age of 12. He joined the socialist French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) in 1919, but soon after, he joined the Communist Party and was imprisoned several times for his political activism. In 1923 he became party secretary and, in 1930, secretary general of the party, a position he held until his death. Thorez was supported by the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

, for PCF leadership following splits in many non-Soviet Communist parties in wake of his struggle with Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

. As the official leader, Thorez was secretly controlled by the Comintern and the secretive Eugene Fried.

In 1932, Thorez became the companion of Jeannette Vermeersch
Jeannette Vermeersch
Jeannette Vermeersch was a French politician.She is principally known for having been the companion and then the wife of Maurice Thorez, general secretary of the French Communist Party , with whom she had three children, born before their union was made official.-Biography:Born...

; they had three sons before marrying in 1947, and they remained married until his death.

Thorez was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1932 and was reelected in 1936. In 1934, following the Comintern directive, he helped form the Popular Front
Popular Front (France)
The Popular Front was an alliance of left-wing movements, including the French Communist Party , the French Section of the Workers' International and the Radical and Socialist Party, during the interwar period...

, an alliance between Communists, Socialists, and radical Socialists. The front, because of strong popular support as France was reeling from the impact of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, won the elections of 1936. With the support of the Communists under Thorez, Léon Blum
Léon Blum
André Léon Blum was a French politician, usually identified with the moderate left, and three times the Prime Minister of France.-First political experiences:...

 became prime minister of a Popular Front government and managed to enact long-needed social legislation. Meanwhile, Thorez presided over the massive growth of the Communist Party beginning with the elections of 1936.

Following the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

 of 1939 and the subsequent Soviet participation in the invasion of Poland, the Communist Party was outlawed, its newspapers were banned and many Party members were interned. Thorez himself had his nationality revoked. Shortly thereafter, Thorez was mobilized, but he deserted from the army to flee to the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. Thorez was tried in absentia for desertion and sentenced to death.

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, The French Communist Party joined the anti-German resistance. During this time, articles written by and ghostwritten for Thorez appeared frequently in the party's underground newspaper, Humanité Clandestine. Each of these letters was signed 'Maurice Thorez, Somewhere in France.' It was not until several years after the war that the party admitted that Thorez had been in Moscow for the entire war. In his absence, the affairs of the Party and of the Party resistance movement (FTP) in France were organised by his second in command, Jacques Duclos
Jacques Duclos
Jacques Duclos was a French Communist politician who played a key role in French politics from 1926, when he entered the French National Assembly after defeating Paul Reynaud, until 1969, when he won a substantial portion of the vote in the presidential elections.During World War I, Duclos fought...


When General Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

's Free French Forces
Free French Forces
The Free French Forces were French partisans in World War II who decided to continue fighting against the forces of the Axis powers after the surrender of France and subsequent German occupation and, in the case of Vichy France, collaboration with the Germans.-Definition:In many sources, Free...

 liberated France in 1944, Thorez received a pardon. After the Liberation, Thorez led the PCF immediately after the Second World War to a non-revolutionary road to power, instructing the reluctant wartime Communist partisans to surrender their weapons, while the party became a powerful force in the postwar governments since he thought that he would soon win legally.

In November 1944, he returned to France from the Soviet Union, and in 1945 his citizenship was restored. The PCF emerged from the Second World War as the largest political party in France based on its role in the anti-Nazi resistance movement during the occupation of France, at least after 1941. He tried to make a revolution, after strikes that he organised, in 1948 that failed only because the army was very anti-Communist. Thorez was again elected to the Chamber of Deputies and reelected throughout the Fourth Republic
French Fourth Republic
The French Fourth Republic was the republican government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems...


Post War

Forming a popular front with the Socialist Party in the 1945 elections, he became vice premier of France from 1946 to 1947. During this time, the Communist members of the coalition government supported the French drive to reimpose colonialism on Indochina. (See, George Moss, Vietnam: An American Ordeal, 3rd Edition 1998, Prentice-Hall; ISBN 0-13-897083-1.) They were supported in this regard by Stalin. (ibid.)

By 1947 a combination of the emerging Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 between the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and the Soviet Union and growing social conflicts in France, linked to the increasing gap between wages and prices, put the three party union (SFIO, PCF and MRP
Popular Republican Movement
The Popular Republican Movement was a French Christian democratic party of the Fourth Republic...

) under heavy pressure. But the crisis came with the beginnings of the colonial war in Vietnam
First Indochina War
The First Indochina War was fought in French Indochina from December 19, 1946, until August 1, 1954, between the French Union's French Far East...

, with the communist deputies in the Assemblée nationale voting against the communist-participating government. That incident led Premier Paul Ramadier
Paul Ramadier
Paul Ramadier was a prominent French politician of the Third and Fourth Republics. Mayor of Decazeville starting in 1919, he served as the first Prime Minister of the Fourth Republic in 1947. On 10 July 1940, he voted against the granting of the full powers to Marshal Philippe Pétain, who...

 to dismiss his Communist ministers from the government on May 7, 1947. Contrary to a very common legend, the firing of the communist ministers was not linked to U.S. pressure, as a condition for France to benefit from the coming Marshall Plan. But the parallel movements in Italy and Belgium show that Cold War political fences were being built all over Western Europe at that time. The Communists' refusal to continue support for the French colonial reconquest of Vietnam
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

 on one hand and a wage-freeze during a period of hyperinflation
In economics, hyperinflation is inflation that is very high or out of control. While the real values of the specific economic items generally stay the same in terms of relatively stable foreign currencies, in hyperinflationary conditions the general price level within a specific economy increases...

 on the other were the immediate triggers to the dismissal of Thorez and his colleagues from the ruling coalition in May 1947.

Although the Communists under Thorez's leadership continued to enjoy a dedicated popular following, the French political system operated to isolate and marginalize them for the remainder of the regime. Following the Cominform meeting in September 1947, Thorez abandoned its cooperative attitude towards the other political forces, intending to follow the Zhdanov Doctrine
Zhdanov Doctrine
The Zhdanov Doctrine was a Soviet cultural doctrine developed by the Central Committee secretary Andrei Zhdanov in 1946. It proposed that the world was divided into two camps: the imperialistic, headed by the United States; and democratic, headed by the Soviet Union...

. He then proved to be the most Stalinist of all communist leaders in Western Europe, blocking the evolution of his party. That lack of dynamism clearly appeared after de Gaulle came to power again in 1958 upon the founding of the French Fifth Republic
French Fifth Republic
The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, introduced on 4 October 1958. The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, replacing the prior parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system...

: the Communist Party's strength in the Chamber dropped to 10 seats, but Thorez retained his seat.

In 1950, at the height of his popularity among party members, Thorez suffered a stroke and remained in the Soviet Union for medical care until 1953. During his absence, the party was de facto controlled by his ally Jacques Duclos
Jacques Duclos
Jacques Duclos was a French Communist politician who played a key role in French politics from 1926, when he entered the French National Assembly after defeating Paul Reynaud, until 1969, when he won a substantial portion of the vote in the presidential elections.During World War I, Duclos fought...

, who expelled Thorez's rival André Marty
André Marty
André Marty was a leading figure in the French Communist Party, the PCF, for nearly thirty years. He was also a member of the National Assembly, with some interruptions, from 1924 to 1955; Secretary of Comintern from 1935 to 1944; and Political Commissar of the International Brigades during the...

. Thorez resumed his duties upon returning to France. Although his health deteriorated, Thorez remained party leader, until shortly before his death in 1964 on a Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...


He published Fils du peuple (1937; Son of the People, 1938) and Une politique de grandeur française (1945; "Politics of French Greatness").

The city of Torez
Thorez is a city of oblast subordinance in Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine. Population - 72,346 . Most residents living here are working in the mine industry, although now declining...

 in Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 is named after him. The Maurice Thorez Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages
Moscow State Linguistic University
Moscow State Linguistic University , previously known as Maurice Thorez Moscow State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages is a university in Moscow, Russia. It is the largest and the oldest university in Russia that specializes in linguistics and foreign languages. There are about 10...

 (Московский институт иностранных языков имени Мориса Тореза) was named in his honor in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....


Two of Thorez's grandchildren converted to Islam.
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