ONE OF THE MORE interesting political events of the past few months was passed over in virtual silence by the American press: the decision of Pierre Mendel-France, former premier of France, to join the Autonomous Socialist Party.
For an appreciation of this event, a few words of background are necessary. Some months ago, a considerable section of the French Socialist Party (SFIO), disgusted with the compromising policy of the Mollet leadership in regard to Algeria, decided to break from the SFIO and form an organization of their own. These Socialists, who included such respected figures as Andre Philip and Rene Blum, set up the Autonomous Socialist Party. It should be stressed that this split did not, like all too many unfortunate predecessors, follow the usual “right-left” lines. What, in the view of the Autonomous Socialists, was here involved was nothing less than an elementary sense of democratic and socialist honor. There was perhaps some ground for skepticism, since this was hardly the first such pronouncement in French radical politics during the past few decades.
But what now makes it seem at least possible that such a trend toward reunion of the democratic left without the Communists will occur in France is that Mendi s-France has decided to join the Autonomous Socialist Party. For some years Mendel-France has suffered from the lack of a coherent political force behind him. He has been a nominal leader of the Radical Socialist Party, traditionally the party of French lower middle class interests, anti-clericalism and parliamentarism. This party, however, has suffered much discredit during the past two decades, and Mendps-France found himself, undeservedly, tied to a dying organization.
By his decision to join the Autonomous Socialist Party and to declare himself a socialist, Mendes-France apparently hoped to reverse the process of splintering and atomization which has afflicted the democratic left. He is, no doubt, looking forward to the post-Gaullist political struggle which awaits France. Reports indicate that several thousand persons, including many youth, immediately followed Mendes-France into the ASP.
Before joining the ASP, Mendes-France spoke to a gathering of still-active members of the Radical party, in order to explain his decision. Below, taken from the French weekly L’Express, we quote a few passages from his talk, entitled “The Reasons for a Choice”: