Factionalism, the French socialist party and the fifth Republic: An explanation of intra‐party divisions

Alistair Mark COLE*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract. This article traces the evolution of factions (the term preferred to that of ‘fraction’) within the French Socialist party (PS) from the early twentieth century until 1981, with special reference to the post‐1971 PS as a party of opposition. It concentrates on the causes and structures of factions, as well as their location in relation to the wider political system and the degree of political space they were able to occupy within the party. It argues that factions were divided by personal rivalries (accentuated by the presidentialised Fifth Republic), ideological and party policy differences, party strategy, power rivalries within the organisation and different historical origins. Factions corresponded more or less to a series of ideal‐types. These were the organisation faction, whose power stemmed from its position within the party organisation; the parallel faction, whose separate factional structures paralled official party ones, and the external faction, which attempted to transform external popularity into internal party strength. Four factions prevailed: Mitterrand, Mauroy, CERES and Rocard. Those headed by presidentiables enjoyed the most success, whereas the others gradually declined. The presidentialism of the French regime set the PS apart from its European counterparts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-94
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1989

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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