Mendès-France, Pierre(pyĕr măNdĕs`-fräNs), 1907–82, French statesman. A lawyer and economist, he entered (1932) the chamber of deputies as a Radical Socialist. In World War II he was a pilot in the Free French forces. Popular as a democratic leader, he became premier in 1954 after the French defeat at Dienbienphu. At the Geneva Conference (1954), he arranged the armistice that halted the fighting in Indochina. He also helped bring about the formation of the Western European Union, and he proposed far-reaching economic reform. His cabinet fell (1955) on the issue of his liberal North African policy. His conflict with doctrinaire conservative Radical Socialists led to a party split; in 1957 he resigned as party head. He failed to gain reelection to the national assembly in 1958, and in 1959 he was expelled from the party. Mendès-France opposed the return to power (1958) of Charles de Gaulle, and he led the Union of Democratic Forces, an anti-Gaullist group. He won reelection from Grenoble in 1967, but lost his seat in de Gaulle's 1968 election victory. His writings include Economics and Action (tr. 1955), The Pursuit of Freedom (tr. 1956), and A Modern French Republic (tr. 1963).
See biographies by A. Werth (1958) and J. Lacouture (1984).
Born Jan. 11, 1907, in Paris. French politician and statesman. Lawyer by education.
Mendés-France joined the Radical Socialist Party in the early 1930’s and was a deputy to parliament from 1932 to 1940 and from 1946 to 1958. During World War II he served in the Free French Air Force from 1941 to 1943. From September 1944 to April 1945 he was minister of the national economy in De Gaulle’s provisional government. Premier and foreign minister from June 1954 to February 1955, Mendés-France signed the Geneva agreements of 1954, which ended France’s colonial war in Indochina, and the Paris agreements of 1954. From February to May 1956, he was minister of state in Guy Mollet’s government. He resigned because he disagreed with the government’s colonial policy in Algeria.
Mendés-France was director of the International Monetary Fund from 1947 to 1958 and deputy director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development from 1946 to 1958. Vice-chairman of the Radical Socialist Party from 1955 to 1957, he left the party in 1959 and was for several years a member of the United Socialist Party.