Thorez, Maurice

Thorez, Maurice

(mōrēs` tôrĕz`), 1900–1964, French Communist leader. The son of a coal miner, Thorez himself worked in the mines. He early joined the Socialist party and in 1920 became one of the original members of the French Communist party. Largely self-taught, Thorez rose in the ranks and became party secretary in 1930 and a leader of the Communists in the chamber of deputies, to which he was elected in 1932. Conscripted when World War II broke out, Thorez deserted and went to Moscow. Although sentenced in absentia, he was amnestied (1944) after the liberation of France and was reelected a deputy. Under his leadership the Communists became the largest single party in the elections of 1945 and 1946. Thorez was vice premier in 1946–47 but afterward returned to the opposition. His position in national politics was subsequently weakened—particularly after the revelations of Stalinist atrocities, since Thorez had been associated with the Soviet leader.


See his early autobiography (tr. 1938).

Thorez, Maurice


Born Apr. 28, 1900, in Noyelles-Go-dault, Pas-de-Calais Department; died July 11, 1964, aboard a ship en route to the USSR; buried in Paris in the Pére-Lachaise Cemetery. Figure in the French and international working-class and communist movement.

The son of a miner, Thorez worked as a farm laborer and a miner until 1920. He became a member of the Socialist Party in March 1919 and took an active part in the struggle to have the Socialists join the Comintern. When the French Communist Party (FCP) was formed in December 1920, Thorez immediately became one of its most prominent figures. He was elected to the Central Committee of the FCP in 1924 and became a member of the Politburo and secretary of the Central Committee in 1925. He was secretary-general of the FCP from 1930 to June 1964, when he was elected party chairman. Thorez was elected a deputy to the French parliament in 1932. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) from 1928 to 1943 and a member of the Presidium of the ECCI from 1935 to 1943.

Thorez was frequently harassed by the government for his revolutionary activities. He played an important role in the development of a new type of militant Marxist-Leninist party in France, based on the principles of democratic centralism. He fought tenaciously against right opportunism, revisionism, sectarianism, and dogmatism in the French working-class movement and in the ranks of the FCP as well as in the international working-class and communist movement. He performed a great service by developing the strategy and tactics for a united antimonopolistic front of all working-class and democratic forces to fight for peace, democracy, and socialism. In the 1930’s, using the Marxist-Leninist conception of the allies of the proletariat, Thorez provided a theoretical basis for the idea of building a popular front as an alliance of the working class with the toiling peasantry and the urban middle strata. Thorez had a prominent role in the formation of the Popular Front in France and in its activities from 1935 to 1938 in behalf of the toiling masses.

On the eve of World War II, Thorez called for a struggle against fascism and emphasized that the interests of defense necessitated the establishment of strong bonds of friendship and alliance between France and the USSR. During the war the FCP, led by Thorez, organized a nationwide struggle against the fascist German occupiers. In the Manifesto of July 10, 1940, signed by Thorez and J. Duelos, the Central Committee of the FCP called on the French people to organize and unite the forces of the Resistance Movement in the struggle against the invaders.

In 1945 and 1946, Thorez was a minister of state; in 1946 and 1947 he was vice-president of the Council of Ministers. Together with other Communist ministers, he succeeded in having a number of laws enacted in the interests of the working people.

Thorez vigorously defended the national sovereignty of France and denounced as contrary to the interests of the people the policy of the bourgeois ruling circles, which brought the country into NATO in 1949. At the height of the cold war Thorez, true to his international duty, raised the cry “The French people will never ever fight against the Soviet Union!” He expounded the thesis that war can be averted in the modern era. In statements made in 1949 and 1950 he declared that war was no longer fated to be inevitable and that peace can be preserved and strengthened by means of the cooperative efforts of all peace-loving peoples.

In the postwar period, Thorez made a substantial contribution to the development of the theory of Marxism-Leninism and the practice of the revolutionary working-class and communist movement. Taking into account the rich experience of the French and international working-class and communist movement and creatively applying the Leninist theory of proletarian revolution to the particular characteristics and traditions of the French nation and state, Thorez showed the possibility of new paths to socialism for France, including the peaceful path. At the Fifteenth Congress of the FCP in 1959 Thorez, on the basis of the Marxist-Leninist position that the struggle for democracy is part of the struggle for socialism, emphasized that in the present epoch no prolonged historical interval separates the stages of democratic and socialist transformation, since the leading role of the working class in the political struggle brings these two stages closer together. He noted that, although the forms of the transition to socialist revolution may differ, such a revolution cannot take place without an intense class struggle.

After the Fifth Republic was established in France in 1958 and the power of state-monopoly capital was strengthened, the FCP, led by Thorez, posed as its main task unity of action of the working class and all democratic forces in the struggle for profound economic, political, and social changes and for genuine democracy as a stage on the path to socialism. Thorez emphasized the necessity for the intelligentsia to participate in the united antimonopolistic front. He gave special importance to unity of action of the Communists and Socialists and believed that the Communist Party, acting in the interests of the working class, should stress the points uniting the democratic forces rather than the differences separating them. He argued that collaboration between the Communist Party and the Socialists and other democratic forces was necessary not only for achieving genuine democracy but also for building socialism.

Thorez fought uncompromisingly against bourgeois ideology, anticommunism, and anti-Sovietism as serious obstacles to the advancement of peace, democracy, and socialism. At the Seventeenth Congress of the FCP in 1964, he said that the international working-class and communist movement, as well as the national liberation movement, would never have achieved such progress without the Great October Socialist Revolution and without the enormous constructive work of the Soviet people.

Thorez considered the struggle to relax international tensions and establish peace an integral part of the general struggle of working people for their political and social liberation. A genuine internationalist, he consistently advocated support for the revolutionary and democratic movements of the peoples of capitalist countries and the national liberation movements of the peoples of colonial and dependent countries. He was a resolute opponent of colonialism and neocolonialism, and he opposed the wars waged by French imperialism in the French colonies.


Oeuvres, vols. 1–23. Paris, 1950–65.
Oeuvres choisies, vols. 1–3. Paris, 1965–67.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. proizv., vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1959.
Izbr. stat’i i rechi, 1930–1964. Moscow, 1966.
Syn naroda. Moscow, 1960.


Varfolomeeva, R. S. “Problemy demokratii i sotsializma v rabotakh Morisa Toreza.” In the collection Frantsuzskii ezhegodnik, 1967. Moscow, 1968.
Sedykh, V. Nasledniki Kommuny. Moscow, 1968.
Frevil’, Zh. M. Torez. Moscow, 1961. (Translated from French.)
Kon’o, Zh., and V. Zhoanes. Moris Torezchelovek, borets. Moscow, 1975. (Translated from French.)
Kasatkina, G. P. Moris Torez: Biobibliografich. ukazatel’. Moscow, 1975.
Histoiredu Parti communiste française. Paris, 1964.


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