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Socialist and communist networks and representatives in Brittany: comparisons and reflections (1920-1989).

Situated in the west of France, Brittany is a rural area with a strong regional identity shaped by socio-economic structures as well as cultural and religious factors. In respect of its political identity, Brittany has a distinctive status within France because it has long been a conservative stronghold however, in recent decades, it has become more progressive, particularly since 1968, when the left came to the fore under the influence of the new social movements (1973-77). Subsequently, a slow conversion to leftist reformism took place, which was strengthened by Francois Mitterrand's national success in the 1981 presidential elections and also evident in the local victories achieved in Brittany in 2004. (1) Before this geopolitical revolution, Brittany had been increasingly characterised by the emergence and consolidation of red subcultures and counter-societies, led both by socialists and by communists, and these red strongholds stood face-to-face with the hegemonic agrarian bloc formed by Catholics and other conservative forces in rural areas.

In terms of revolutionary currents, the situation changed in the second half of the twentieth century because, leaving aside certain isolated strong-points, revolutionary tendencies had up until then, occupied a minority position. The implantation of the French Communist Party (PCF) took place in two phases; this meant it was able to take root on a regional scale and acquired hegemony in two kinds of territories. Firstly, the conversion of militant branches of the socialist party to communism during the 1920s made the PCF politically predominant in the working-class bastions (urban and maritime), which were strongholds of the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) before 1914. Secondly, from 1944 onwards, the PCF was dominant on the left in the regions of Brittany where the rural networks of the Resistance were active. Rural communism thus created a red bloc in the centre of Brittany.

The support base of the other party which emerged from the workers' movement, the Socialist Party, underwent a different evolution. For this party, the second half of the twentieth century saw the emergence of a social democracy based on local representatives who were ideologically located between revolution, republicanism and religion, and it retained some of the working-class support it had acquired before 1914. They thus absorbed the heritage of republican secularism between the periods of the Popular Front and the Liberation, and were able to tap into the dynamic force of Christian socialism in the years between 1960 and 1980. After that, the new Socialist Party (PS) which was based on the three political cycles described above, took advantage of the dynamic process which altered the political physiognomy of Brittany, within a context of transformation in the social, economic, cultural and religious structures of the region. Whereas before 1960 it delivered its message as a missionary movement restricted to the margins of the party system, Breton socialism now staked its claim to be the dominant political force in a region where the left had gained the upper hand. (2)

Though Brittany may appear peripheral in relation to the communist centre, in fact the communists' presence in this region extended well beyond party boundaries as they were active across various social, trade union and local political networks. Seen through the prism of networks, the political field can be defined by three pillars: the diffusion of ideas; the activism of people; and the structuration of organisations. The object of this paper is to compare and contrast communist and socialist networks from a local and political historical perspective. (3)

In their form, their practice and their influence, as indeed in their development, the parties of the workers' movement grew up as a federation of networks. The milieu of the party in fact turns out to be an interwoven matrix of branches and teams which gravitate around party organisation in the strict sense, forming a flexible spectrum. This political society, the flexible spectrum of the party, welds together a number of networks on various bases, highly polarised and framed by the key figures of the local elected representatives (first and foremost the parliamentary deputies), who are the bedrock of the party milieu.

In the field of the history of French communism, scholars have adopted approaches from hagiography, biography and prosopography and their scope has ranged from electoral analyses and party studies, to research on 'implantation and on communist identities. (4) In terms of historiography, studies have also varied from those that look at French communism through the prism of national perspectives to those who adopt a more bottom-up approach by exploring local activist networks which reset and recreate the relationships between centre and periphery in the communist world. (5) Moreover, at a regional level, an initial focus on monographic or biographical studies have recently been extended to include a consideration of how communist organisations were rooted and functioned locally. This has resulted in historians exploring local recruitment matrices, examining the stories of generations of activists and the political identities borne by true counter-societies like Brittany's 'little Siberia'--Coatascorn (a place that never succeeded in electing a communist mayor). (6)

Drawing on doctoral research, this paper builds on recent trends and adopts a multi-faceted approach that includes history from below, the social and cultural history of politics, history through networks, a regional political history and a local history of political parties and elected representatives. (7) What is involved here, therefore, is a comparison between the forms of implantation of the SFIO and the PCF and the cycles in which they took place, taking into account the manner in which these militant identities confronted each other. In a subsequent stage of the investigation, the aim is to consider the networks of socialist and communist representatives so as to bring out the plurality of identities present in 'red Brittany'.

Socialists and communists in Brittany: political fractures and electoral competition from the 1940s

The general development of political relations on the French left is a familiar story. After the political split at the Tours congress of 1920 (8), the PCF found a way out of its isolation in the mid-1930s and established itself in regional politics. (9) The transfer of support to the PCF during its electoral highpoint following Liberation in 1945 began with the assimilation and recovery of socialist bastions held before 1914. Part of the region, which was also marked by an old tradition of collective peasant rebellions, converted to communism, mostly because of the involvement of communist networks in the local Resistance. While both the SFIO and the PCF benefited from the dynamics of unity during the Popular Front and Liberation, this papered over the fact that there had long been a fractious relationship between communists and socialists, which was rooted in the deep political divisions that characterised French life, most notably the fault line between secularism and religion, which was particularly marked in Brittany. Therefore, the reversal of these leftist alliances in 1947 resulted in the reconfiguration of socialist/communist relations in a conflictual manner that showed that the just beneath the surface the stakes for primacy on the left remained high.

These underlying rivalries may be located within a series of multiple fractures. At the centre of divisions within the left in Brittany were competing representations of the world, created by both emerging Cold War geopolitics and also competition in the field of local activist networks. International issues fuelled the socialists' criticisms of their communist rivals: they loudly rejected the communists' political culture, their submission to the USSR and their adherence to Stalinism, totalitarianism and the partisan model of the party. Conversely, communist attacks on the SFIO, beyond the stock accusations of compromise (for example with capitalism and fascism), focused most notably on their stance on anti-colonial struggles. That these struggles resonated in a local context was seen in demonstrations against the war in Indochina in the early 1950s in Brest, Nantes and Saint-Brieuc. Moreover, conflicts between socialists and communists in the context of domestic political tensions, and in the fields of educational, social and economic policy, were reinforced by internal divisions within socialist movement, a consequence of the socialists' rejection of the radicalism and social conflict platforms endorsed by communist militants after 1947. The gravity of these issues, and the interconnections between global, national and local levels, altered the relationship between socialists and communists, who now competed in fierce local debates. Furthermore, as is also refracted through the fields of trade-unionism and secular social movements, there were separate networks which opposed each other on the basis of diametrically opposed and irreconcilable ideological references, organisational models and political cultures. Nevertheless, the question of unity was systematically brought to the heart of the tumultuous relationship between these two political parties through the labour movement.

As the SFIO turned towards the Mouvement Republicain Populaire (MRP), which had political leanings towards the Christian democratic party, the socialist party initiated a Third Force strategy which collided with the traditional militant identities of socialists on the issue of secularism. This move towards the centre by the SFIO had quite different meanings for the party's activist base and its socialist elite: the former harboured feelings of both repulsion and attraction towards the communist model, while the latter, composed of a fringe of former radicals, advocated a republican model, which was incompatible with the communist one. SFIO anti-communism was also strongly expressed in the activist sectors which formed the backbone of the socialists' partisan support. Trade union crises led to the birth of a new secularist and anticommunist trade union, Force Ouvriere (FO) in 1948, and also resulted in a loss of influence for the agricultural unions, an open confrontation within teachers' unions, as well as competing political visions of the left within the secular movement.

In legislative elections under the Fourth Republic (1945-1958) there was a rough equivalence in the number of socialist and communist deputies elected from Brittany. (10) As the table shows, however, the two components of the Breton left were more unbalanced at councillor level.

Polarisation in the two rounds of French elections, so different from the British first-past-the-post system, presented PCF candidates with a double test. Firstly, it posed the PCF with the profound challenge of reaching the top of the left poll in the first round, and even if this hurdle was passed, it then needed to be followed by a solid uniting of the leftist political forces in the second round.

This situation prevented the communists from having a single elected representative in Ille-et-Vilaine, while the cantons acquired in 1945, in Nantes and Lorient, were lost when they next came up for election. Competition between the SFIO and PCF was especially evident in the red territories of Cotes-du-Nord and to a lesser extent of Finistere. (12) The cantonal elections from 1949 and 1951 revealed the mutual antagonisms between these respective leftist factions, both of which had their historic roots in the labour movement. Often the incumbent or challenging candidate could suffer defeat in the second ballot because of the hostilities between socialists and communists. Cold War geopolitics, in the end, forced a far reaching socialist desertion of the 'red lands'.

Depending on the local political context, the socialists developed a variety of strategies to take on the PCF between 1947 and 1971. These ranged from employing tactics of overt anti-communism to reaching tacit cooperation with the right or the centre. Differences between the positions of the SFIO at national level and those of locally elected representatives and the wider networks--which were not obliged to adhere to a standardised line--revealed the malleable face of socialism and its ability to adapt its electoral position closer in tandem to the local political culture.

At the same time, at the municipal level, the strength of the communist party disrupted the classic right/left electoral cleavage. Here, in the post-1945 era, the socialists were reduced to a position of anti-communist opposition, thus assisting those members of the right in territories with a strong left disposition. By the same token, the three different types of rural, coastal and worker communist strongholds were consolidated as a result of this shift. Rural municipalities coming under communist leadership, which had resulted from the switching of allegiances to the PCF in 1945, were thus characterised by the decline of the SFIO--for example, in the cases of Le Huelgoat, Saint-Nicolas-du-Pelem and Rostrenen. In rural communities which had converted to communism along the coastline--for example, in Concarneau, Douarnenez, Pont-l'Abbe --communist networks replaced old socialist patterns of sociability. This caused an inexorable decline in SFIO sections, which were now reduced to barely a few members; socialist networks were thus now overshadowed by coastline communism.

Similarly, within the former labour movement strongholds of the SFIO, where there had been significant areas of communist support in both 1936 and 1944, there were also vast transfers of activists from socialism to communism. In areas such as Lanester, this formed the basis of a labour movement communism. In the end, this triple context of local communism--rural, coastal, worker--blocked the emergence of support for the socialist party, which had become entangled in political identities defined by anti-communism and departed from the hitherto dominant model of rural and secular socialism. Here the renewal of socialism began only with the new generation of PS activists using national electoral dynamics to regain influence on the left, most notably in instances of communist defeat or the withdrawal of communist elected representatives due to a lack of preparation or other such problems.

Where these positions were reversed, the same political devices were mobilised in areas dominated by a form of municipal socialism. Conceived in these cases as a bastion holding back the spread of communism, socialism here offered a form of political compromise to the forces of the right and centre by withdrawing from electoral contests and, thus, shifting the split between right and left to one in which socialism stood opposed to communism. Thus between 1947 and 1971 the tenure of socialists in local government took on different meanings, depending on the nature of municipal lists which rested either upon anti-communism or the unity of the left.

In large cities, the socialist party sections were characterised by virulent anti-communist positions where they were directly linked with the establishment of a distinct FO presence. Here the SFIO took the lead in Third Force coalitions, which, in turn, politically weakened the socialists on their left. Examples of this can be found in Lorient, Concarneau and Trignac, where the SFIO/FO network confronted communist networks which were rooted in a range of social and sporting activities (for example, in Carhaix and Le Relecq-Kerhuon). There was a similar situation--if to a lesser extent--in Saint-Nazaire and Inzinzac-Lochrist, where the gap between the SFIO and PCF vote was far more significant. In Brest, Rennes, Fougeres and, in some respects, Saint-Brieuc, the socialist deputies held strategic positions within the centre-right majority. Municipal-level loyalties required the support of locally elected socialists for policies that were simultaneously being denounced by the SFIO at national level, such as the thorny issue of secularism. In areas where co-operation between socialists and communists was unthinkable--for example, Douarnenez or Reze--this favoured the centre and the right, which could become dominant as a consequence of division on the left. Particularly in Cotes-du-Nord, the socialist presence at municipal level was also established in large towns, that is, in the administrative centres of the districts acquired from the PCF or in those areas inclined towards a powerful communist vote. In these areas, the shift in favour of the PCF occurred later and was often in the context of the unions of the left in 1977 and 1983, as was demonstrated in Callac, Begard, Plouaret, and Mael-Carhaix. In Bourbriac, for example, mayors sensitive to the socialists' needs were able to secure themselves permanently in office by mobilising the forces of anti-communism.

The rupture of Third Force strategies, which was more the MRP's initiative than the SFIO's, influenced the municipal elections of 1953 and 1959. The points of friction between the SFIO and PCF, beyond the general split of 1947-48, were reflected in heated debates in which the challenges of the Resistance were replayed or else forms of violence introduced into political behaviour, which were located somewhere between controversy and interpersonal hatred. In this connection, the pervasiveness of a socialist anti-communism mirrored the virulence of communist anti-socialism. A change in the electoral rules in 1951 also produced tensions. For example, although the PCF topped the lists in Cotes-du-Nord in terms of votes, the party was denied parliamentary representation because of the 'matching' of SFIO, Radical and MPR lists. After this period of tension under the Fourth Republic, the realignment of the left (1958-73) shaped a new political order, but one more favourable for the PS than the PCF--despite four communist MPs being elected in the Cotes-du-Nord during this era.

Comparative analysis: socialist and communist MPs and CGs in Brittany

In order to make sense of the forms of competition and association between socialist and communist networks in activist sectors such as the labour and agricultural unions and in secular networks, it is useful to consider profiles of the elected representatives of the two parties between 1945 and 1958. It must be remembered that throughout this period the centre-right fared better than the parties on the left across Brittany as a whole, and that communist MPs were mainly concentrated in the west of the region. In the period dating from 1945, twenty communist MPs were elected in Brittany, seventeen during the Fourth Republic and three after 1978. This compares with eighty six socialist MPs across the whole of the century (109 by 2008), although only ten of these were elected before 1945, and twenty between 1945 and 1973. As Tables 3 and 4 below indicate, there are profound distinctions to be drawn between the two groups.

While the credentials of social class proved to be a major issue in the political struggle between the two Marxist parties, the socioeconomic make up of socialist and communist parliamentary representatives nevertheless varied. In displacing the first generation of socialist cohorts, the second generation represented by the communist movement was characterised by the working-class political base of the movement, able to draw on social dynamics that represented only a minority in rural Brittany. The strong working class origins of the PCF base and elite had clearly developed in areas characterised by a strong detachment from catholic practice and hostility to religion. Anticlericalism was thus a crucial issue, with severe competition with the socialists for control of the two anticlerical networks. There was also a strong base of support for the PCF amongst smallholding peasants, tenant farmers, agriculture workers, rural artisans and village shopkeepers. The PCF established itself locally thanks to militants in small communities who created and sustained local networks of sociability and culture: it was on this basis that they renewed the practice of politics. The socio-biographical features of communist elites reflected the social expression of communist identity. Communist elites shared a number of features with the activist base including working-class identity, engagement in the Resistance, and high rank in the party apparatus and the communist-aligned trade unions or other ancillary networks.

Each department was distinctive. The profound impact of the Resistance shaped the extremely localised communist presence in the Cotes-du-Nord (which had eight PCF MPs). Here, they developed networks through a reactivation of personal relationships and by building ties with the Resistance generation, and they strove to establish patterns of political unity within a wider context of rivalry and competition between communism, socialism and the different manifestations of political centrism. (17) In Finistere (which had six MPs), the strength of the party machinery was complemented by links with a variety of Resistance networks, from trade unions to various auxiliary organisations. The Basse-Loire valley in Loire-Inferieure (three MPs), one of the few areas of working-class concentration, saw the rise of a proletarian communism, which dominated the party and coloured the form that the networks of this red counter-society took (social organisations, hunting, rugby, local government). In Morbihan, there was a middle way as the PCF was established both in the working-class communities (Arsenal) and also in rural communities, with the MPs R. Bellon and L. Guiguen chosen respectively from the communist trade unions. In Ille-et-Vilaine, where any red identity was considered an anathema, the PCF was represented by a 'fellow-traveller' active in the Resistance, E. d'Astier de la Vigerie, who served as an MP from 1945 to 1958 before breaking ideologically with the communist milieu. Meanwhile, the socialist party, which infiltrated pre-existing social-political cultures and embraced traditions of secularism and radicalism, was led by public-sector employees, state schoolteachers and small peasants, who had been politically active since at least the 1930s.

As we can see from the tables below, in respect of age-group and generation, there was a clear generation of communist MPs born in the 1910s, while the socialist representatives were older, with a stable average age at the beginning of their mandate. The comparison between the two groups of MPs is interesting; here the relevant figures are 50.5 years of age in 1919, 44.2 in 1945, 49.5 in 1958, and 47.5 in 1981. We can also obtain a grassroots perspective on communist networks by comparing the 62 communist CGs between 1934 and 2011 with the group of 358 socialist CGs in the same period. As the tables below suggest, the comparison is illuminating: communist CGs form a new generation in 1945, in marked contrast with their socialist counterparts, especially because of the transfer to the latter of members from the Radical Party, which was very substantial in 1945-6. There were also important transfers in respect of electors, members of the activist base and political notables, at the beginning of the war and also during the Resistance and subsequent Liberation. Socialists thus retired into their 'blue areas' (a social democracy of representatives and networks) and let communists establish themselves in 'red areas' (defined by mass organisation and centred around a new kind of popular leader). This remained the case until the 1970s, when the socialists were able to attract members from leftist Catholic networks and also safeguard their connections with longstanding bastions of the left in the face of the major transformations created by secularisation, social transformation and the nationalisation and homogenisation of the electorate (18).

This sociological approach offered important common points between the brother parties. The revival of the presence of communist CGs in Cotes-du-Nord was thus made in small steps (one at each election between 1951 and 1973) and then by a great wave (four in 1976, seven in 1982-92), and reflected a common moment of expansion in connection with the Union of the Left. Nevertheless, Brittany did not escape to the retraction of the PCF's fief after 1989 and the marginalisation of communist areas shaped in 1945.

Therefore, to summarise, this paper has used the method of prosopography to assess the itineraries of communist MPs, general councillors (CGs) and party leaders and compare them with those in socialist activist networks.


At the beginning, the SFIO made its mark on the Breton political landscape as a working-class social democratic movement in a rural region. Its initial implantation was limited to the areas where industry was concentrated particularly in the maritime towns, such as Brest, Lorient and Saint-Nazaire. After the upsurge of the Popular Front, socialism advanced from the position of a marginal protest movement to become an integral part of the regional party system. Breton communism, on the other hand, took root in the areas of the earliest development of a working class. At this point the social question became important, with the transition from a blue/white cleavage to a white/red confrontation. This marked the emergence of a political force that was admittedly secondary but nevertheless established an autonomous position within the republican camp. From the 1930s to the 1960s, the socialists depended on powerful working-class and secularist networks, but they also relied on a self-reinforcing matrix of local deputies. These socialist networks declined in tandem with the decline in the independent culture of the local political sphere. Socialism in Brittany thus resembles a strong political family, wavering between radicalism and a communism that is powerful in rural centres of political resistance. One sees, on the one hand, political shifts between tendencies, and on the other hand, and above all, the age-old issue of unity and unification of the left.

At the beginning of the 1970s, the decay of the SFIO, and the PSU's lack of political prospects, formed a contrast with the rapid emergence of the PS version of socialism. This marked a veritable reconfiguration of a fundamental kind of the structure of socialist militancy. Unlike the PCF, which fell back defensively on its bastions of support, this socialist renewal, shown particularly by its growth in recruitment, took place in the context of a decisive breakthrough by the left, on the basis of the disruptions and transformations that Breton society underwent.

The observations made in this paper have been drawn from new sources and have been viewed from a fresh approach, one that has brought together both national and local trends by focusing on networks and linkages. As we have seen through this study of leftist organisations in Brittany, an analysis of the networks and organisations that made up this 'red bloc' allows us to view these so-called 'Little Moscows' in their proper complex, multifaceted historical perspective. The main issue has been to analyse the 'red fortresses' in Brittany in respect of their inner and outer frontiers. Communist leaders developed deliberately open strategies towards women and other social groups--such as peasants and state-school teachers--that explains the limited nature of considering only political frontiers in respect of understanding the complex range of factors that make up society. It also points to the important role of sympathisers, the electorate, party members and responsible leaders in ancillary networks. There is, as a result, thorough diversity within what is termed 'Red Brittany'.

Socialism and communism in Brittany functioned around a system of networks and activities that were intrinsic to both parties and revealed both fractures and continuities in successive generations of activists. The political breakthrough in the 1930s, intensified by the strengthening of elected representatives' networks in 1945, is therefore different from the changes which took place in the 1960s-1970s and led to the emergence of the new socialist party in the context of profound changes in local society. It is also important to compare, using a bottom-up approach, the two kinds of socialism in Brittany, which, as we have seen, were not always so different from each other when compared prosopographically. This method has enabled an analysis of trajectories, networks and identities and emphasising a characteristic of Breton socialism that is similar to a social democracy of elected local representatives. (20) Interlinked activist networks were part of plural socialist environments composed of independent subgroups. The privileged link that socialists and communists enjoyed with trade unions changed according to the period, but remained consistent with the shifts in social movements. As we have seen, the weak base of the rural bloc explains the frailty of the activist network in the countryside before the emergence of rural networks and progressive labour unions, which irrigated this fertile activist environment. At the same time communism, in assuming responsibility for networks like the trade unions and diverse auxiliary organisations, acquired the features of social democracy with a working-class base, and as such was affected by a huge disintegration and multiple crises in the 1970s-80s.


(1.) For general background, see : Jacqueline Sainclivier, Histoire de la Bretagne de 1939 a nos jours, Rennes : Apogee, 1994 ; Christian Bougeard, ed., Un siecle de socialismes en Bretagne. De la SFIO au PS (1905-2005), Rennes : PUR, 2008.

(2.) Francois Prigent, << En haut a gauche ? Les evolutions geopolitiques de la Bretagne sous la Ve Republique >>, Michel Bussi et al., ed., Le Tableau politique de la France de l'Ouest d'Andre Siegfried, 100 ans apres : heritages et posterites, Rennes : PUR, forthcoming. Francois Prigent, << Le cycle d'Epinay en Bretagne (1971-1981) >>, Alain Bergounioux et al., ed., Les socialistes d'Epinay au Pantheon, une decennie d'exception (1971-1981), Rennes : PUR, forthcoming. Francois Prigent, << L'experience de l'union de la gauche en Bretagne (1967-1978) >>, Alain Bergounioux, Danielle Tartakowsky, ed., L'union sans l'unite. Le programme commun de la gauche (1963-1978), Rennes : PUR, 2012, pp175-187. Francois Prigent, << La mutation des milieux socialistes dans l'Ouest breton (1967-1973) : reseaux, trajectoires, identites >>, Christian Bougeard et al., ed., L'Ouest dans les annees 1968, Rennes : PUR, 2012, pp211-223.

(3.) The attempt to reflect globally on the history of Breton communism and socialism requires us to go back to the definition of the nature and function of a political party. This is the place where the political links between electors, militants and parliamentary representatives are articulated. A party is a training ground which provides militants with a vision of the world; it is also characterised by the production of collective insights for its members. A party aims to secure power to conduct public business according to its own ideological principles, aiming in the case in question at the radical transformation of society. But a party also brings together a political community in which ideas and sources of commitment are shared. It is also a meeting-place for men and women who are changing as time progresses according to both their own individual trajectories and the militant environments they frequent, impelled by forces that go beyond the purely political framework. Finally, a party is defined by a political line and an electoral positioning, which reflects the interplay between the party system and the issues at stake in the debates and struggles taking place in the electoral sphere.

(4.) Leaving aside ideology, the political projects of the party forces are studied from the point of view of social location and militant entrenchment, following the 'implantation' problematic introduced by historians of communism. This historiographical turn involves the application of the method of territorial monographs to local political cultures, grasped in their socio-cultural and political environment. Jacques Girault, Sur l'implantation du Parti communiste francais durant l'entre-deux-guerres, Paris : Editions Sociales, 1977. Jacques Girault, ed., L'implantation du socialisme en France au XXe siecle. Partis, reseaux, mobilisation, Paris : Publications de la Sorbonne, 2001.

(5.) Recent work by, among others, Jean-Pierre Molinari (sociology of recruitment), Ronan Le Coadic (communist identities), Julian Mischi (communist local societies) and Paul Boulland (prosopography of party notables) has in each case drawn support from case studies in Brittany.

(6.) Published biographical studies include Jean-Michel Le Boulanger, Flanchec (1881-1944) ou l'etrange parcours d'un insoumis, Douarnenez, 1997 and Eugene Kerbaul, 1270 militants du Finistere (1918-45), Brest, 1985. Studies of communist 'implantation' include masters' theses by Jean-Pierre Le Foll, Arnaud Le Breton and Guy Haudebourg as well as Alain Prigent, Histoire des communistes des Cotes-du-Nord (1920-45), Saint-Brieuc: own account, 2000. Other important published studies are Ronan Le Coadic, Les campagnes rouges en Bretagne, Skol Vreiz, 22, 1991; Jean-Noel Retiere, Identites ouvrieres: histoire sociale d'un fief ouvrier en Bretagne (1909-1990), Paris: L'Harmattan, 1995; Ronan Le Coadic, 'Comment peut-on etre breton, paysan et communiste?', Communisme, 45-6, 1996, pp187-195. Julian Mischi, 'La Briere Rouge : l'utilisation identitaire d'une marque politique', Communisme, 51-52, 1997, pp59-72. Guy Haudebourg and Franck Liaigre, 'La resistance communiste en Loire-Inferieure' in Christian Bougeard, ed., Bretagne et identites regionales pendant la seconde guerre mondiale, CRBC, 2002, pp89-102.

(7.) Francois Prigent, 'Les reseaux socialistes en Bretagne des annees 1930 aux annees 1980', PhD thesis, University of Rennes 2, 2011.

(8.) During the Tours Congress in 1920, when the SFIO split and the largest faction went on to form the PCF, this rupture accelerated the development of the major themes, areas of strength and militant paths taken by the young Communist Party.

(9.) Christian Bougeard, Histoire des forces politiques en Bretagne. Notables, elus et militants (1914-46), Rennes : PUR, 2011.

(10.) In the five legislative elections 1945-56 there were thirty-two successful SFIO candidates and thirty-three from the PCF.

(11.) Figures taken from: Francois Prigent, 'Les reseaux socialistes en Bretagne des annees 1930 aux annees 1980', PhD thesis, University of Rennes 2, 2011, p. 196.

(12.) In Cotes-du-Nord in 1945, the PCF had a bloc of thirteen councillors, including one ally. By the 1949 elections the number was reduced to eight, by 1951 to six and by 1958 to just four, in Rostrenen, Saint-Nicolas-du-Pelem, Plouaret and Mael-Carhaix. In Finistere the configuration was less favourable for the PCF, and apart from the immovable A Penven in Huelgoat and a succession of communist elected representatives in Concarneau, the four other communist councillors elected in 1945 survived only one term.

(13.) Francois Prigent, 'Les reseaux socialistes en Bretagne des annees 1930 aux annees 1980', PhD thesis, University of Rennes 2, 2011, p. 239.

(14.) On this party, cf. Tudi Kernalegenn et. al (eds), Le PSU vu d'en bas : reseaux sociaux, mouvement politique, laboratoire d'idees (annees 1950 annees 1980), Rennes : PUR, 2009.

(15.) Francois Prigent, 'Les reseaux socialistes en Bretagne des annees 1930 aux annees 1980', PhD thesis, University of Rennes 2, 2011 p. 329.

(16.) Francois Prigent, 'Les reseaux socialistes en Bretagne des annees 1930 aux annees 1980', PhD thesis, University of Rennes 2, 2011 p. 342.

(17.) Extensive biographical details relating to this section can be found in the author's thesis, 'Les reseaux socialistes en Bretagne des annees 1930 aux annees 1980'.

(18.) The new face of Breton socialism was represented by the group of 'Christians of the left', or rather the 'Christians on the left'. Until the 1970s, socialism took advantage of links with non-religious milieux in its endeavour to implant itself; later on, it drew support from sectors of the Christian world in the course of being converted to left-wing views. Rather than representing an abandonment of the initial roots of socialism, this shift derives from an expansion in another direction, involving the addition of a second stratum of militants occupying a different spatial location. The accompanying political changes and transfers of electoral support fall within a dual context, namely the disintegration of the Catholic bloc on the one hand and the crisis of religious consciousness and the emergence of political consciousness among these Christians on the left on the other. The Socialist Party was attractive to a section of the Christian milieu which was no longer identified politically with the bloc of Catholic conservatism, but can make no sense of the vision of the world put forward by the communist movement. These phenomena of transference and conversion to the left are linked with profound transformations in the structure of Breton society, but they are accelerated by a series of progressive networks of militants, which act as a bridge to ease the path of transition to socialism through the medium of the various milieux of the ACO (Catholic Workers' Action), JOC (Young Christian Workers), CFDT (French Democratic Confederation of Labour) and PSU (Unified Socialist Party). The way the relation between socialism and religion evolved in Brittany resulted from the changing evolution of each of those poles of attraction in the 1960s and 1970s. Within socialism, the primacy of militant secularism gradually faded away in face of the shift in the centre of gravity of the political environment brought about by the emergence of the Christian left. Within Catholicism, the encyclical Rerum Novarum and the Second Vatican Council, along with its impact, showed that the Church had taken a grip on the social question and supported the emergence of a political current of Christian Democracy. This was followed by a profound change in Catholic ideology and practice, which modified the shape of religion in Brittany and its motivating forces. In the first half of the twentieth century the region was characterised by the strong Christian stances and networks, and the political scene was marked out by the presence of Catholic parties, followed later by the growth of Christian Democratic organisations such as the MRP (Popular Republican Movement). The political apogee of Christian Democracy was then replaced by the Social Democracy of the elected socialist representatives. The socialist left took full advantage of the movement of militants away from the former to the latter, while maintaining continuity with the political culture of the SFIO.

(19.) Tables 5-7 taken from: Francois Prigent, 'Les reseaux socialistes en Bretagne des annees 1930 aux annees 1980', PhD thesis, University of Rennes 2, 2011, p 340, 343 and 375.

(20.) Francois Prigent et Christian Bougeard, ed., Des fiches aux fichiers. Les enjeux de la methode prosopographique (Bretagne, XVIIIe-XXe siecles), Rennes : PUR, to be published.

Table 2: Number of candidates presented/number
of candidates heading the
left vote. (13)

                1967    1968    1973    1978    1981

PCF             33/16   33/15   33/9    33/6    33/0
PS              25/14   24/15   33/23   33/27   33/33
PSU/Parti        9/3    22/3    15/1     8/0     0/0
  Unifie (14)

Table 3: Socioeconomic characteristics of
communist MPs since 1945 (15)

Categories      Brittany    Cotes     Finistere

Housewife         10%       12.5%       16.6%
Peasant           25%       37.5%       16.6%
Worker            20%         0           0
Teacher           30%        50%        33.3%
Craftsman/         5%         0         16.6%
Employee           5%         0         16.6%
Intellectual       5%         0           0
Total              20         8           6

Categories         Loire      Morbihan   Ille-et
                -Atlantique              -Vilaine

Housewife            0           0          0
Peasant              0          50%         0
Worker             100%         50%         0
Teacher              0           0          0
Craftsman/           0           0          0
Employee             0           0          0
Intellectual         0           0         100%
Total                3           2          1

Table 4: Socioeconomic characteristics of
socialist MPs in Brittany during the
twentieth century (16)

Categories      1910-1932   1936-1956   1958-1968

Peasant             0         22.2%       14.3%
Worker             50%        16.6%       14.3%
Teacher           33.3%       27.7%       57.1%
Craftsman         16.7%       33.4%       14.3%
Employee            0           0           0
Executives          0           0           0
  and liberal
Others              0           0           0
Total               6          18           7

Categories      1973-1993   1997-2008

Peasant             0         4.2%
Worker              0           0
Teacher           56.6%       41.6%
Craftsman         16.7%       20.8%
Employee          6.6%        2.1%
Executives        16.6%       27.1%
  and liberal
Others            3.3%        4.2%
Total              30          48

Table 5: Total of general councillors in
the Brittany regions, 1910-1998. (19)

Years             PCF       Finistere      Loire
              (Socialist)               -Atlantique

1910             0 (2)          0            0
1934            1 (10)          1            0
1937            1 (16)          1            0
1945            18 (23)         4            1
1946            19 (31)         4            1
1949            12 (19)         4            0
1951            9 (11)          3            0
1955            8 (14)          3            0
1958            8 (15)          3            0
1961            7 (15)          2            0
1964            9 (22)          3            0
1967            10 (25)         2            0
1970            11 (23)         3            0
1973            15 (43)         5            1
1976            16 (53)         3            1
1979            16 (68)         2            2
1982            14 (84)                      1
1985            11 (70)                      0
1988            12 (78)                      0
1992            10 (78)                      0
1994            11 (70)                      1
1998           11 (110)                      1
2001            9 (110)                      1
2004            8 (129)         0            1
2008            7 (152)         0            1
Total          62 (358)        14            4

Years          Cotes    Ille-et    Morbihan
              d'Armor   -Vilaine

1910             0         0          0
1934             0         0          0
1937             0         0          0
1945            13         0          0
1946            13         0          1
1949             8         0          0
1951             6         0          0
1955             5         0          0
1958             5         0          0
1961             5         0          0
1964             6         0          0
1967             7         0          1
1970             7         0          1
1973             8         0          1
1976            10         0          2
1979            10         0          2
1982            11         0          1
1985             9         0          1
1988            10         0          1
1992             8         0          1
1994             8         0          1
1998             8         0          1
2001             5         0          2
2004             5         0          2
2008             4         0          2
Total           37         0          6

Table 6: Age of the general councillors
at their first election

Age groups         PCF         Socialist
             (Cotes-du-Nord)   (Brittany)

<30                 0              5
30-40              13              16
40-50               8              18
50-60              14              19
60-70               2              6
>70                 0              2
Total              37              66
Average           45.7            46.3

Table 7: Socioeconomic characteristics of
the communist general councillors
in Cotes-du-Nord (1945-2011)

                  Communist   Socialist

Peasant              13          18
                    35.1%       27.3%
Worker                3           2
                    8.1%         3%
Craftsmen             3           9
  Storekeeper       8.1%        13.6%
Public employee      15          24
                    40.5%       36.4%
Executives            3          12
  and liberal       8.1%        18.2%
Others                1           1
                    2.7%        1.5%
Total                37          66
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Author:Prigent, Francois
Publication:Twentieth Century Communism
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Feb 1, 2015
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